July 19, 2011

Spirit Nips Freedom in Champion AAS Final

by Paul Krome and Brian Logue | LaxMagazine.com | Championship Box | Consolation Box

Syracuse-bound Kailah Kempney had three goals and eight draw controls to help Spirit beat Freedom in the Champion All-American Showcase championship game.

© Scott McCall

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Approximately 80 of the nation’s best high school girls’ lacrosse players gathered at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the 2011 Champion All-American Showcase. They got to hang out with future college teammates, meet players from around the country – 26 states to be exact – and even went to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom over their three-day stay. But when it came down to the end, it was all about lacrosse.

After Team Freedom’s Rachel Ward scored to cut Team Spirit’s lead to 17-16 with 4:59 remaining in the championship game, Spirit burned up most of the final five minutes of the game in a stall, despite constant double-teaming from a determined Team Freedom squad under a blazing hot Florida sun.

“That’s my favorite part of the game,” said Spirit’s Kailah Kempney, who had three goals to help her team to the victory. “It’s so intense, it could go either way right there. When we lost it at the end, we all were really nervous sprinting back.”

Freedom was unable to get off a final shot and Spirit celebrated before family and friends and a worldwide audience on www.espn3.com.

“With the cameras in your faces, it’s kind of intimidating,” said Kempney, “but it makes it seem so much better when you win.”

After opening a 10-5 lead late in the first half, Spirit was challenged for the rest of the day by Freedom. Freedom score the last three goals of the first half, and only two saves in the final seconds by Spirit’s Lucy Ferguson stopped Freedom from getting closer than 10-8.Freedom cut the lead to one on two separate occasions in the second half, but never got the equalizer.

Northwestern recruit Casey Bocklet led Spirit offensively with four goals and three assists while Kempney and Alexandra Crerend each added three goals, and Sloan Warren had two goals and an assist to cap off a strong week in which she earned MVP honors for Team Spirit. Anna Salemo led Freedom with four goals to finish a fabulous tournament in which the future Stanford player scored 21 goals in four games. Her future Stanford teammate, Kyle Fraser, added three for Freedom.

A big factor in the game was Spirit’s dominance on the draw. Spirit had a 22-13 advantage, with Kempney herself grabbing eight draw controls.

“We had the teammates on the outside screening off or sealing off, so me on the inside could just catch it easier,” said Kempney.” It was pretty much a team effort and no one was getting inside.”

Kempney will head to Syracuse next year, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. She’s a graduate of Carthage (N.Y.) High School, which has produced a number of great players for Syracuse’s men’s lacrosse program over the years, none more famous than Casey, Ryan and Michael Powell.

“Every since I was in kindergarten or first grade, I met the Powells,” said Kempney. “We used to go to all their games. Right then and there I was like ‘I’m going to Syracuse, I want to be just like the Powells.’ I didn’t look anywhere else. It was straight Syracuse, didn’t even care about any other school . Didn’t visit any, didn’t talk with any really.”

One player that had plenty of reasons to celebrate was Spirit’s Courtney Swan, who had a pair of assists in the win. She celebrated her birthday and got to win the championship in her home state. Swan, a two-time finalist for the Heather Leigh Albert Award at the US Lacrosse Women’s Division National Tournament, will head to Virginia after a stellar career at Florida power Vero Beach High School.

“This is a big trip for everybody else and this is finally in my backyard,” said Swan. “It’s really exciting. This is such a nice complex and I love coming here.”

Swan’s credentials stand on their own, and she’s one of the best players to come out of the Sunshine State, but she says she doesn’t feel pressure to represent her state in what is the nation’s toughest women’s lacrosse conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I really want to do well there, and I’m going to try my hardest,” said Swan. “I’ve been training hard this summer and doing all that I can. I don’t feel any pressure, everybody’s been really supportive.”

In the morning’s consolation game, Kerrin Maurer continued her strong performance at the showcase with six goals and one assist to help Pride to a 21-12 win over Liberty. Pride was in the running yesterday for a berth in the championship game, but tiebreakers sent Pride to the consolation. Pride finished 3-1. Liberty finished without a win.

Maurer, a Duke signee from St. Anthony’s (N.Y.), had seven points, including four goals in the first half, to finish with a team high 23 points (18g, 5a) for the Champion All-American Showcase. She scored a hat trick in the game’s first six minutes to help Pride jump out to a 5-0 lead. Liberty fought back to 6-4 behind two goals and an assist from Halle Majorana, but two goals from Allison Hahn (2g, 2a) staked Pride to a 13-9 lead by halftime.

Liberty twice got to within three early in the second half, but Spring Sanders’ goal and two assists helped Pride pull away. Liberty goalie Rachel Vallarelli finished a strong showcase by stopping nine shots in the second half.

“We weren’t going to give up,” said Maurer, whose team won its first two games before losing to Freedom, 20-11, in yesterday’s afternoon round. Tiebreakers sent Pride to the consolation game. “We wanted to come out and try our hardest and make up for what we didn’t do yesterday.”

Coaches selected an MVP and a Sportsmanship Award winner for each team. They are:

Pride MVP: Megan Douty, defender, Rumson Fair Haven (N.J.)/Maryland
Pride Sportsmanship: Molly Hulseman, midfielder, Loyola Academy (Ill.)/Loyola

Liberty MVP: Madison Acton, midfielder, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional (Mass.)/Duke (verbal commitment)
Liberty Sportsmanship: Meg Markham, defender, Manhasset (N.Y.)/Penn

Freedom MVP: Christine Ferguson, defender, St. Paul's School (N.H.)/Cornell
Freedom Sportsmanship: Meg Bartley, attacker, Cape Henlopen (Del.)/Virginia Tech

Spirit MVP: Sloan Warren, midfielder, Baldwin (Pa.)/Virginia
Spirit Sportsmanship: Megan Armes, defender, Mission Viejo (Calif.)/Saint Mary’s


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