Thomas Dale’s first season of lacrosse was a success. Both the boys and girls teams were formed from the bottom up and both had...

Thomas Dale’s first season of lacrosse was a success. Both the boys and girls teams were formed from the bottom up and both had success as teams, coupled with many individual successes. This year, it’s for real, these games count. 2015 marks the first season that the Knights will play Virginia High School League lacrosse and excitement has come with that accomplishment.

“It’s starting to be talked about like any other sport,” said Latzi Ballint, a senior midfielder and team captain. “We’re not just playing in some park, we’re playing under the lights with our school’s name on our chests.”

Last season, the boys went 6-6 playing as a club team. Perhaps their biggest victory was defeating private school Colliegate’s JV team, who has been a powerhouse at lacrosse for years. An eighth grader, Lucas Daughtry, scored the game-winning goal in that contest. The now-freshman starts for Thomas Dale and is considered their brightest college prospect, drawing very early interest from major programs.

One player is already committed to play college lacrosse. Ballint, who will be headed to Division III Randolph College in the fall, Randolph is a  member of the ODAC.

“He plays offense and defense,” explained Thomas Dale Lacrosse Head Coach Paul Amos. “He might not be the leading scorer but when people that know the game watch his film, they see him making everyone else better.”

Senior Matt Bartilotti, who has been playing lacrosse longer than anyone on the team, is a rock solid defender and the other team captain. While he’s likely not pursuing lacrosse at the next level, he’s his class president and was recently accepted into Notre Dame for academics. A familiar face to Thomas Dale athletics, Corey Leonard, who has a state title in wrestling under his belt and played football, joins the lacrosse team as a defender. Freshman John Pierce, an attacker, and sophomores Trent Akins (attacker) and Tanner Davis (defender) are skilled players, and provide a young nucleus for the program.

The girls are back and have something to prove, after winning their first scrimmage against Clover Hill, who’s starting lacrosse this year for themselves. Led by senior Hayley Peaks, the girls are looking for their first official win.

“We came together as a team last year,” Peaks said. “A group of girls that had never played lacrosse before formed a team last year and we learned from each other.”

Peaks made a splash. After just one year of playing the sport, Radford offered her a partial scholarship. While Peaks wants to be closer to home, other colleges could come calling for the cheerleader-turned-lacrosse player.

“When I started, I wanted to play for the fun of it,” said Peaks. “It makes me really proud to know that I’ve accomplished something like that in a short amount of time.”

The girls’ game seems to lend itself to field hockey players.  Several area athletes like Maddy Smith, one of the Knights’ top field hockey performers, also play lacrosse. Smith had two goals in the Knights scrimmage victory against Clover Hill.

There are differences between the boys’ and girls’ game. The boys’ stick lengths vary depending on what position is being played, while the girls all have the same stick size. “Pockets” are different, the boys have a deeper pocket to catch and carry the ball in. Finally, boys wear pads and helmets while girls do not. Hence, no contact is allowed in the girls game.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Peaks said. “I don’t get to truck anyone.”

The Knights’ much anticipated home openers were delayed due to rain on Friday, but will happen Wednesday, April 1 as both teams host James River. Girls’ at 5:30; boys’ at 7 p.m.