National Champs: Yellow Jackets Win USL Title
by Paul Krome | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
Cortney Fortunato had five goals as the Yellow Jackets (N.Y.) won the US Lacrosse Girls' U-15 National Championship.
© Scott McCall
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The top-seeded Yellow Jackets brought their "Empire State of Mind" with them to Central Florida, and they're going home as the best team in the land.
With Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' hit song in the background, the club team from Long Island gladly raised its trophy as the 2010 US Lacrosse Under-15 National Champion, as the Jackets completed a 6-0 run through the event with a 12-5 win over third-seeded Stars Gold (Va.) in the tournament championship game Tuesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Cortney Fortunato and Alexis Maffucci, two of four Jackets named to the Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team, combined for eight goals and an assist in the final to help the Yellow Jackets complete a mission that began with their loss in the first round of the 2009 US Lacrosse U15 National Championship tournament.
"It was our mission," said Jacket coach Carol Rainson-Rose. "We as a coaching staff picked this team in particular to come down here and win it."
Rainson-Rose needn't have looked far for her first player. Fortunato, a rising sophomore at her coach's Northport (N.Y.) High, completed her own tale of redemption. She was consistently one of the Jackets' top scorers, and her five-goal effort in the final made amends for having to sit out last year's event with a torn meniscus.
"It feels awesome," said Fortunato. "It was a bummer last year when we got knocked off in the playoffs. This year it was awesome to win."
She and Maffucci sparked their team to an early 6-2 lead, and the Jackets continued in worker-like fashion to win their first US Lacrosse U15 National Championship. With some pinpoint shooting, both players were able to solve Stars Gold goalie Olivia Cole, who had a strong tournament and finished the championship game unofficially with seven saves.
"This tournament, she stepped up," said Stars Gold coach Rick Sofield. "We knew she had it in her. She carried us into the final. She was our MVP."
"She's a great goalie," Fortunato said of Cole. "Obviously they got down, but she still came up with big saves at the end. She has a lot of heart for the game.
Cole's counterpart in the second half, Rachel Ramirez, gift-wrapped a goal for Stars Gold when she mishandled a pass by Charlotte Sofield early in the frame, which closed the gap to 6-3. But from then on, Ramirez was nearly impenetrable, even as Stars Gold began to get some better looks after a tough first half against the Jackets' defense, which didn't allow more than five goals in a game. Ramirez finished unofficially with eight saves and earned Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team honors.
Fortunato quickly answered Sofield's marker, one of three for Fortunato after intermission, and teammate Emily Columbus added two in the second half as the Yellow Jackets salted away the victory. Stars Gold finished the event with a 6-1 record.
"It's an amazing feeling," Fortunato said. "It's really cool to win the championship. We worked really hard for something like this, and it feels awesome."
The Yellow Jackets cruised into the championship game with a 17-4 win over fourth-seeded Pacific Falcons (Calif.) in one semifinal. The Jackets scored the game's first 12 goals. Fortunato (3g, 2a) and Hannah Burnett (2g, 2a) continued their exploits. Four players scored for Pacific. Goalie Kerry Klimpel went the distance and made eight saves.
Stars Gold got to the final with an 11-8 win over fellow Virginia club program Cardinal. Four players scored two goals each and goalie Cole unofficially made 10 saves to lead Stars Gold. Trailing 2-1 early, Stars Gold made a decisive 6-0 run to take command and eventually hang on. Maggie Jackson (2g, 1a), Sophie Davidson (2g, 1a), Corinne Wessels (2g) and Avery Donahoe (2g) paced Stars Gold. Alex Condon (3g, 1a), Katie Kerrigan (2g, 1a) and Tori Anderson (2g) led Cardinal's comeback attempt. Goalie Crawford Horan made six saves.
In the third-place game, Pacific defeated Cardinal, 15-12, behind hat tricks from Camille Doan and Grace Schmidt.
Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team
Taylor Bleistein, D, Yellow Jackets (N.Y.)
Hannah Bolt, M, Lax Maniax Black (Fla.)
Alexandra Condon, M, Cardinal (Va.)
Avery Donahoe, A, Stars Gold (Va.)
Cortney Fortunato, M, Yellow Jackets (N.Y.)
Meredith Haggerty, M, Top of the Bay (Md.)
Katie Kerrigan, D, Cardinal (Va.)
Alexis Maffucci, A, Yellow Jackets (N.Y.)
Michaela Michael, M, Nor Cal Elite
Vickie Porter, M, Pacific Falcons (Calif.)
Rachel Ramirez, G, Yellow Jackets (N.Y.)
Corinne Wessels, M, Stars Gold (Va.)