Stickbenders Take USL U15 Girls Southeast Regional
|The Stickbenders (Fla.) punched
their ticket to the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship
tournament by winning the USL Southeast Regional title on Sunday
© BJ Dworak
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Stickbenders (Fla.) scored eight first-half goals en route to a 12-4 victory over Lightning Lacrosse (Ga.) Sunday afternoon in the US Lacrosse U15 Girls' Southeast Regional Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited. Midfielder Abby Shields turned in an impressive six-goal performance to lead the Stickbenders to the title and an automatic invitation to the 2012 USL U15 National Championship July 24-26 in Orlando, Fla.
The championship game Sunday at WRAL Soccer Center was a showdown of the field's top two seeds, as the top-seeded Stickbenders squared off against No. 2 Lightning. The Stickbenders advanced to the championship tilt with a dominating 14-2 victory over Eagle Stix Atlanta in Sunday morning's semifinals while the Lightning downed Hotlanta Lacrosse, 22-11, in the other semifinal contest.
The Stickbenders won the opening draw and set the tone offensively from the start. Shields exploited Lightning's defense early and often, exploding for four goals in the first five minutes. After a save by Allison McDonough of the Stickbenders, Hannah Palau found Megan Gorman for a score with 15:45 to play in the half. Shields then tacked on another goal on an assist from Gorman to make it a 6-0 Stickbenders lead.
"We wanted to come out here and establish possession right away and just get a few goals in," said Stickbenders coach Shannon Dean. "We wanted to go up quickly and then just ride with the rest of our game plan and let them play to our game plan."
Despite several saves by Lightning goalkeeper Katherine Sweeden, the team's defensive unit struggled to contain the aggressive Stickbenders. Midfielder Ashley MacIntyre found the net at the 9:10 mark, putting the Stickbenders ahead by seven. Lightning finally got on the board a minute later on a Hunter Corvin score. A long offensive possession by the Stickbenders resulted in MacIntyre's second goal of the game, giving her team an 8-1 advantage heading into halftime.
The Lightning opened the second half with a big save from Sweeden, and Kylie Holthaus bounced in a goal on the other end of the field to cut the deficit to six. After Gorman notched her second goal for the Stickbenders, the Lightning won the ensuing draw and scored on a goal by Corvin to make it 9-3 with 20 minutes remaining.
The teams continued to trade goals over the next few minutes with Palau scoring for the Stickbenders and Lightning's Holthaus recording a goal off of a free-position shot. After taking over duties between the pipes at halftime, Angela Benson of the Stickbenders came up with a number of key saves, while her squad also continued to capitalize in the transition. Shields tallied her sixth goal of the day with six minutes to go and Alexandra Biedenharn added a score in the final three minutes of regulation to guide the Stickbenders to a 12-4 win and the tournament title.
"I thought we did really well," Shields said. "Our offense took control. We spread it out, controlled the game. It was really good on our part and the defense played well too."
"It's an honor," Dean said of the championship win. "To come up here to North Carolina for the Regional and to qualify now for the U15 National Championships, that was our goal here. To come up this far and to win it, it's an honor."
In a tightly-contested third place contest, Courtney Hutchison scored a game-high four goals and Hannah Demis added three to lead the Eagle Stix to a thrilling 11-10 victory over Hotlanta.
The top four finishers from this weekend's regional tournament – the Stickbenders, Lightning, Eagle Stix and Hotlanta – all earned invitations to the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship, Powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, July 24-26 in Orlando, Fla.
Notes: Second-seeded Integrity (Md.) used five
goals from Jenna Garden to defeat the top-seeded Georgia Outlaws,
11-8, in the gold medal game of the girls' U13 division. Andrea
Colavito carried Georgia with four goals of her own. The game was
tied a 5 at halftime. ... The US Lacrosse Southeast Championships
will return to Raleigh June 7-9, 2013.