High School Girls' Season Rewind: Mid-Atlantic Region (June 20)
by Chris Goldberg | LaxMagazine.com
1. McDonogh (Md.), 18-0
Player of the Year
Taylor Cummings, McDonogh (Md.)
Cummings is a rare repeat winner of the Mid-Atlantic Player of the Year after leading the Eagles to a third straight undefeated season (18-0), a fourth consecutive Interscholastic Athletic Association of Marland (IAAM) championship and a probable hat trick as the nation's top-ranked team.
Cummings collected 60 goals and 30 assists and has 200 career goals along with 111 assists. She capped her career by scoring the game-winner with 9.8 seconds to play as McDonogh rallied to defeat Maryvale Prep (Md.), 12-11, in the IAAM championship game — the team's 69th straight win.
"Looking back, it's surreal that we were able to accomplish what we did," Cummings said. "We are all lucky to have played in such an incredible program and have so much fun along the way. I couldn't have asked for a better way to finish my senior year."
Cummings will play collegiately at Maryland.
Spotlight on ...
The shoe may not have fit perfectly at the end, but Strath Haven (Pa.) was surely the Cinderella story of the 2012 season.
The Panthers graduated a number of key seniors and started 1-5 this year. But they began to gel under second-year coach Rachel Busza and finished 11-7 in the regular season while placing fifth in the powerful Central League.
Strath Haven grabbed the seventh seed in the District 1 tournament and advanced to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament for the third time in four years. But no one suspected the Panthers would make such a splash.
In the first round of states, they edged District 12 champion Archbishop Carroll (Pa.), 9-8. Then they knocked off District 1 runner-up Central League foe Conestoga (Pa.), 8-7. They then advanced to the title game for the second time in four seasons by routing Penn Manor (Pa.), 19-5.
In the championship game, Strath Haven was a huge underdog against Garnet Valley (Pa.), the Central league champion, defending state champion and a team that had already beaten the Panthers by scores of 16-6 and 12-6.
What's more, Garnet Valey featured three All-Americans; Strath Haven didn't even have one player chosen for first team all-league honors.
But maybe it was the smell of the chocolate at Hershey. Strath Haven was undaunted by the odds.
The Panthers, after falling behind, 3-2, held Garnet Valley scoreless for nearly 27 minutes with standout defense, goaltending by Hallie Yancey, and a patient attack and seized an 8-3 lead with less than nine minutes to play.
The Jaguars made a comeback and drew within 8-7 in only four minutes. Strath Haven responded with a goal and then won a key draw control and held the ball until 1:01 remained. Unfortunately, Garnet Valley tied it and won it in overtime, 10-9.
Strath Haven senior co-captain Laura Rowan was equally heartbroken and proud after the loss.
"It's sad to lose, especially in overtime," Rowan said. "But I am not upset about how everyone played. "Our attack was on and our defense was on. You can't be upset when the whole entire team is on and plays amazing."
Defensively, the Panthers put a net around Garnet Valley's attack, preventing the Jags from getting many chances form the behind the net where they often create havoc.
"It's sad to end the season this way," Rowan said. "But the last time we played them we lost by 10. Our plan was to settle it on attack. We didn't want to force anything. On defense, we knew their strengths. It was the third time we played them and we knew who their go-to girls were.
"We wanted to slow them down at midfield and shut them down on defense," Rowan said.
Busza understood that few believed the Panthers could beat the Jags — but she believed it, and her players believed it.
"These girls have by far passed every expectation," she said. "Considering the big picture — I have no first teamers (in the Central League) and no All-Americans and we were killed twice by them. And we came here and played like that."
Busza continued, pointing to a banner: "That's our banner 'Believe' — that should be an inspiration to every lacrosse program. If you play together you are going to get what you saw today; and who knows? Next year it will be us getting the goal in overtime. It was a shame somebody had to lose today. Everybody thought we were going to get blown away. But today the heart of these kids is what made the difference. I am so proud of them."