Throughout the playoffs, Eddie Ranuska posed the question: “Are we still hungry?”
His E.C. Glass boys lacrosse team has responded, not just by taking bites out of their region and state tournament opponents, but by gobbling them up whole.
Still, these Hilltoppers, the ones who’ve earned a trip to the Class 4 state championship game for the third straight year, don’t appear satisfied. During games, their faces tell a different story, one of a team that’s starved for more.
“We want to go out there and get that ring,” senior attack Wyatt Hamilton said when asked about his team’s resolve this week. “Second place is not enough for us.”
They know all about that. Two years ago, Riverside High defeated Glass 8-6 to win the Class 4 state title. For the Hilltoppers, at that time still seeking their first state championship in school history, the loss was a crushing blow.
Now, armed with the 2018 state championship, the ‘Toppers have a chance to get revenge on the Leesburg-based Rams (17-2). Glass and Riverside clash at Salem High School on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the Class 4 title game.
Revenge won’t be all that easy. Riverside features a handful of Division I recruits, like senior attacks Daniel Maltz (Maryland) and Mitchell Pehlke (Ohio State), junior defender Cory McDonald (High Point), former Colgate commit and prolific attack Taylor Musa, and faceoff Evan Park (Saint Joseph’s).
“Probably the most high-powered offense in the state of Virginia,” Ranuska said after his team defeated Western Albemarle in the state semifinal round this week. “To win the championship you’ve got to beat the best, and that’s what we’re gonna be doing.”
This week, one phrase kept cropping up as players described their feelings about returning to the title game: “We’ve worked so hard to get here.” They feel their 17-2 record proves that. So does the fact that the Hilltoppers have outscored opponents 83-18 in five playoff games.
“We lost a lot [of players] from last year,” Glass faceoff Matthew Gallagher said, “and a lot of coaches have questioned how good we could be this year — not our coaches, specifically, but coaches from around the state.
“And I think we’re kind of overlooked this year. I don’t think teams are necessarily as worried about us as they were last year, because we had a lot of size last year, and that was really intimidating. But this year, we’re just a really close group, and it’s fun to play with these guys.”
Ranuska considered Tuesday’s game against the Warriors to be Glass’ most complete game of the season. The coach hopes to carry that approach, four fiery quarters of lacrosse, over to Saturday’s game.
“I think [Tuesday’s semifinal] really showed that we’re hungry,” Ranuska said.
Each game, Glass seniors go through a ritual: one lap around the field. It’s during those times, before and after games, Hamilton noted, that players chant one of their mantras.
“One of our big sayings is ‘The boys are buzzing,’” he said. “So I’d like to think that’s the energy we carry in to every game, just like a hive of bees coming out there ready to play every game.”
Saturday’s weather forecast for Salem calls for an 80% chance of rain, with precipitation totals between one-quarter and one-half of an inch, according to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg. The game will be played on Salem’s artificial turf field.
The game will be a battle between two heavyweights, both shooting for their second state boys lacrosse championship.
“I think we’re playing our best lacrosse coming in,” Hamilton said, “so that’s all you can hope for.
“Let’s just go out and win Saturday.”
Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527.