Norfolk Academy (VA) Hoping to Climb One Final Step

By Ryan Rohde

Losing three straight state championship games can be tough for any team to get over, but the Norfolk Academy Bulldogs are hoping new faces bring new results.

The Bulldogs bring a new crop of players into 2009, most of whom were not a vital part of those three consecutive runner-up finishes.

"We graduated 170 points of offense from last season," said head coach Tom Duquette, who is in his 28th season, "We have a lot of guys stepping up in lost positions."

Replacing that much scoring is never an easy task. Senior middie Schuyler Beecroft is back off after scoring more than 80 points and earning all-league honors in '08, and thus far shows no signs of letting up. Juniors Andy Via and Eric Gorsline have emerged as scoring threats alongside a slew of other junior middies.

The new-look Bulldogs have had to learn on the fly, as they play one of the toughest schedules in the state. They are off to a 9-3 start through April 8, the three losses coming to Charlotte Country Day (NC), St. Paul's (MD) and St. Alban's (DC), three top-tier programs. According to Duquette, it is important to play great teams, especially with an inexperienced club.

"The only way to get better is to play teams that make you pay for your mistakes," he said. "It's all about getting better."

Norfolk has steadily improved from the start of the season, posting good wins over Bishop Sullivan and most recently Collegiate School, an 11-9 thriller on April 3. The Bulldogs hope to ride this momentum into their game with heated rival St. Anne's-Belfield on April 25. Norfolk fell to STAB in the state finals 8-7 in double overtime last season after taking the regular season meeting 12-11. The rivalry is a special one, as it goes much deeper than just the two schools

Duquette and St. Anne's-Belfield head coach Doug Tarring first battled on the basketball courts in Baltimore when Duquette played at Gilman and Tarring played at St. Paul's. After high school the two were teammates at the University of Virginia and members of the 1972 national championship team. Duquette actually began his teaching career at STAB, then had a great opportunity to teach at Norfolk Academy. Now they coach two of the best lacrosse programs in the state.

"The rivalry is 30 years strong. During the game they are the opposition, after the game, we shake hands and are back to being friends," Duquette said of St. Anne's-Belfield and coach Tarring. "That's what high school sports is all about."

There is no doubt that both teams are looking forward to that game, but everyone knows it is how you perform in the playoffs that really matters. The new Bulldogs do not have a lot of playoff experience, but maybe that just what they need to finally win the state title.


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