Consistency and chemistry fuel Washington Twp. boys' lacrosse team

Posted: April 27, 2011

In the days leading to Saturday's fourth annual Gloucester County Cup, consistency has been the key to the success of the Washington Township boys' lacrosse team.

The Minutemen have scored 14 to 16 goals in every game this season. They've allowed double digits in scoring only once, in a 16-10 victory over Eastern, and every game has ended with a notch in the win column.

At 6-0, the Minutemen are South Jersey's last undefeated team. The record, according to longtime coach Steve Arata, is owed largely to a team chemistry that is greater than that of any team Arata has coached.

"These guys are like my family," Arata said. "This is a special group this year. The chemistry on this team is unbelievable. They know that this could be their year, and they are so focused."

Washington Township, ranked No. 3 in The Inquirer's South Jersey Top 10, will visit No. 7 Kingsway (5-3) in the Gloucester County Cup, at 2 p.m. Saturday. The event, which matches the two top teams in Gloucester County, is a doubleheader, with the Washington Township and Kingsway girls set to play at noon.

The Minutemen lost the last two Gloucester County Cups, including a 10-8 defeat against Kingsway in 2010.

"Kingsway has definitely become a rival to us now," said Washington Township senior midfielder and Maryland-Baltimore County recruit Steve Chapman. "The game really creates a good atmosphere around the Gloucester County area.

"So this is definitely very important. We want to win this year, and I think we have a good chance to do it."

Arata sees Chapman as the embodiment of why his team is off to such a hot start.

Chapman is the Minutemen's dedicated, selfless leader, a player who spends free time at home studying game footage.

"He's just a complete player on and off the field," Arata said.

Selflessness is especially important for the Minutemen this year. They feature a deep team with a heavy rotation, including at goalie.

The team doesn't switch goalies during a game, but senior Matt Borie and junior D.J. Cheney have been rotating starts with tremendous success - and, surprisingly, little animosity.

"We're all close friends because of lacrosse," Chapman said. "And the whole team has been happy with the outcome of this season, which brought us even closer.

"We just have to stay consistent and stay focused."

Teacher vs. student. For Bishop Eustace girls' lacrosse coach Kat Burke, playing against Haddonfield is a blessing and a curse.

It's a blessing because it allows her to match wits with Bulldogs coach Jessica Blake - the close friend and former coach who taught Burke everything she knows about offense. And it's a curse for the same reason.

"She basically taught me how to play lacrosse," Burke said of Blake, who was the offensive coach at St. Joseph's University when Burke played there from 1999 to 2003.

"So it's kind of neat in that respect. But my lacrosse is essentially her lacrosse. She's kind of the foundation of lacrosse as I know it."

That could explain why the Crusaders' 14-4 loss to the Bulldogs, an Olympic Conference Freedom Division rival, stands out as an aberration on their schedule.

Burke isn't likely to throw anything at Blake that Blake hasn't already seen.

Bishop Eustace (6-2 overall, 4-1 Olympic Freedom) has been consistent on both ends of the field in nearly every other game this year. Its only other loss was to state juggernaut Moorestown.

The Crusaders have won their last four games by a combined 74-14.

"I think we've kind of gone back to basics," Burke said. "Our scoring has been very spaced out this year, which is a nice thing. And I think our team is getting more comfortable."

The Crusaders and the Bulldogs (8-1, 5-0) will meet for a second time on Monday, in a game that could go a long way in deciding the division winner.

"It's definitely something we're really looking forward to" Burke said.

Standstill. For the first time this season, The Inquirer's South Jersey Girls' Top 10 did not change this week.

But the stage is set for a few major changes next week, starting with Wednesday's 4 p.m. matchup of No. 2 Shawnee (5-3) at No. 3 Clearview (7-0).

Coming off last week's loss to No. 1 Moorestown, Shawnee is seeking a signature win over one of New Jersey's most talented teams.

A win for Clearview would set a new benchmark for the growing program and keep the Pioneers in the conversation with the best teams in the state.


Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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