Mount Hebron boys lacrosse coach Warren Michael thinks that depth at the midfield position is the reason the Vikings won the county championship and are the top seed in the Class 3A-4A West regional lacrosse playoffs that begin tomorrow.
While most teams are lucky to have two lines of midfield, Mount Hebron fields four and isn't afraid to use any of them. The consequence of such depth is that opposing teams wear down toward the end of games.
That's how the Vikings upset defending county champion Centennial in triple overtime this season. Mount Hebron was trailing 9-5 midway through the third period, but held Centennial scoreless the rest of the game for a 10-9 victory.
Centennial had lost in the state championship game last year, and returned a nearly intact squad that was touted as one of the most talented ever in Howard County.
Before the Centennial win, the Vikings felt they had not received the respect that they deserved.
Part of that was due to their 6-5 season last year. The Vikings were unranked early this season, and ranked behind Centennial and Oakland Mills until they beat Centennial.
"Beating Centennial finally made people believe we were a team to be reckoned with," said Dave Moss, a senior on the second midfield line.
"Our coach doesn't stress rankings, but when our alumni come back to watch games we don't like to tell them we're only No. 3 in the county. It definitely motivated us to be ranked behind Oakland Mills."
Tenth-ranked Mount Hebron (11-1 overall, 7-0 league) defeated the Scorpions, 14-8, last week.
For the most part, the midfield's role is not to score goals but to play defense, control transitions and assist the attack.
"But our midfield always gets four or five points per game and has scored some big goals," Michael said.
He mentioned Moss' goal just before halftime against Oakland Mills. And he cited two goals scored by Greg Lee against South Carroll as examples of how the midfield has come up with some important offense.
Scott Baughman, who will play at Georgetown on partial scholarship next season, is the leading scorer on the midfield and wins a high percentage of his faceoffs. Baughman, Terrence Buckley and Brent Wilhoite make up the first line.
"Brent is our best athlete," Michael said. "He made an awesome steal against Centennial's Joe Lowrance."
Moss, who is headed to Hampden-Sydney, Lee and Damon Cuzmanes comprise the second line.
Pete Murzda, Pete Thomas and Hak Kim make up the third line.
The fourth line is nicknamed Rambo, and is a defensive unit composed of Mike Tittsworth, a long stick, and Mike Stromberg and J. D. Hammet.
"We're a cohesive squad and we all have the green light to go to goal, but there is no pressure on us to score," Moss said.
"Everyone knows his role and no one tries to play outside himself. We've done a good job of being patient this year."
Moss thinks that Michael, who played two years at midfield for Washington and Lee, is a big reason for Mount Hebron's success. It is the coach's eighth and last season. He's taking a break to spend more time with his family. His teams have won five county titles, five regionals and two states.
"He's never down. He's always positive even when we're behind," Moss said. "We've worked hard for him this year, because we didn't want him to leave on a losing note."
Mount Hebron's players are predominantly small and quick -- like Michael. They don't do a lot of hitting.
"He told us you don't have to worry about getting hurt as long as you use the proper technique," Moss said.
They have beaten first-round opponent South Carroll earlier this season, 9-4, but Moss says they aren't looking past the Cavaliers to a possible rematch with Centennial.
"You can't take any team lightly," Moss said. "That may be why we lost to St. Joe [9-8 in overtime]."