Maybe it was the new uniforms, or just the players being improved, more determined and tired of losing so much.
Whatever the reasons, the 2023 season has been the most successful ever for the Wakefield Warriors in boys lacrosse.
The high-school team finished with a 7-8 overall record. The seven wins are the team’s most in a single season in program history, and six more than each of the last three seasons, at least, when the Warriors won just one match.
Wakefield’s season also included its first victory over a Liberty District opponent, when the Warriors defeated the Marshall Statesmen, 10-4. That meant Wakefield wasn’t the usual last season in the league tournament.
“It was a big deal to beat Marshall and win a district match,” Wakefield coach Antonio Francis said.
For the season, Wakefield had a single-season record 125 points.
The Warriors won their first two matches. Then, after two straight losses, they bounced back with a stretch of four consecutive victories, including a 19-0 win over Potomac of Prince William County. There was a five-goal loss (but winnable game, according to Francis) against Arlington rival Washington-Liberty, during the campaign.
For all of the improvement, Francis was chosen by his peers as the district Coach of the Year and Wakefield’s Christian Wheeler was picked as the Assistant Coach of the Year. Three Wakefield players were chosen second-team all-district and others were honorable-mention selections.
“The tide at Wakefield is changing,” said Francis, who has coached the team for five years. “The players have bought into our system and it’s all about their attitudes. They know they can do this and win now, and the program is growing. All season long players would keep telling me, ‘Coach, this is the first time we did that.’ They were excited.”
There was a most-ever 54 players in the program this spring, including the varsity and junior-varsity teams.
One of Wakefield’s top players was junior and faceoff specialist Cleveland Lemus-Gonzalez. He won 186 faceoffs during the regular season and has the most overall in team history with nearly 200.
Senior attack Will Walker had 36 goals, 17 assists and 16 ground balls during the regular season, and defender Colin Baird gathered 40 ground balls, caused 15 turnovers and had two goals and two assists.
Max Thompson, Jacob Ullman, Nico Combs, Simon Tnaib, Ryan Baird and Carter Gentry were other top young players.
Francis said the season’s success and the positive attitude of the players helped him through a difficult situation of dealing with the recent and unexpected death of his 31-year-old brother, Adrian.
“The kids put me back on my purpose,” Francis said. “This was a great group. They know they can keep having success now.”