Beekeepers: Sky Walkers Defeat Yellow Jackets Team 2
to Win US Lacrosse U15 National Championship
Sky Walkers 2015 Blue's (Md.) Miranda Ibello (right) and Julia Braig, both selected to the Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team, celebrate winning their program's first gold medal at the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited. They led the Sky Walkers to a 14-6 win over Yellow Jackets Team 2 (N.Y.) in the final.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Sky Walkers 2015 Blue (Md.) played the role of beekeepers at the 2012 US Lacrosse Girls' U15 National Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, and they will bring the national championship trophy back to Maryland after two years in New York.
Elizabeth George had eight points (5 goals, 3 assists) and Miranda Ibello added six points (3g, 3a) and dominance in the draw circle to lift the eighth-seeded Sky Walkers to a 14-6 win over third-seeded Yellow Jackets Team 2 (N.Y.) in the gold-medal game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex today. George had two goals and an assist during a championship-changing four-goal run in the last 1:53 of the first half, when a yellow card against the Jackets allowed the Sky Walkers a man advantage, turning a 4-4 tie into an 8-4 lead.
"It feels awesome to know that we're the national champions," Ibello said.
George scored unassisted with 1:35 left in the half, then fed Paige Aldave 10 seconds later, then scored on a pass from Kara Klages with 19 seconds left.
"They got a lot of draws, especially after the card near the end of the first half," said Yellow Jackets coach Danielle Skakandi. "We were tied, and we gave up four goals after that and lost momentum."
The now-two-time selection to the Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team – Ibello achieved that distinction with Top of the Bay (Md.) here last year but remained with her standing Sky Walkers team when the program opted to participate in this event – was a big reason why the Jackets couldn't recover in the second half. Ibello stepped into the draw circle nearly every time throughout the game, helping the Sky Walkers gain possession on 10 of 11 draws surrounding halftime. George and Klages scored to put the Sky Walkers up 10-4 just 5:13 into the second half.
"Miranda can get it herself, but she trusts her teammates on the circle and in the 50-50 balls," said Sky Walkers coach Molly McLaughlin. "She's a force to be reckoned with."
When Yellow Jackets Team 2 did get the ball, as it did frequently early in the game, it often ran into a stout Sky Walker defense anchored by all-tournament team selections Andie Aldave and Julia Braig.
"They were sending early doubles and were being very proactive and aggressive," Skakandi said. "Our girls got a little hesitant with the ball and didn't move it quick enough."
Later, fueled by watching their offense take control of the center circle, the Sky Walkers held the Jackets without a goal for 18:26. All-tournament midfielder Mackenzie Burns (2g, 1a) scored at the 10:33 mark of the second half and fed Katie Hoeg 89 seconds later to give the Jackets some hope, but two assists from Ibello helped the Sky Walkers answer each time.
"The most important thing on defense is communication, and our team is so loud," George said. "Our slides were getting there. We were stopping them from driving in."
But it was George who proved nearly unstoppable. She either scored or assisted on her team's first seven goals, working with Ibello on three of them.
"Elizabeth has composure, incredible skill and great timing on what she does," McLaughlin said.
Timing couldn't have been better for the Sky Walkers, who knocked off two-time defending national champion Yellow Jackets Team 1 in yesterday's quarterfinals and edged the Long Island Top Guns in the morning's semifinal round. In the ongoing discussion about which state produces the best girls' lacrosse, the Sky Walkers staked a claim.
"It seems like Baltimore and Long Island are the strong points, but the sport will build," George said. "But I want to hold Baltimore at the top."
Goalie Lauren Daly helped the Long Island Top Guns win the bronze medal and was one of 12 players named to the Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team.
Bronze Medal Game
The fourth-seeded Long Island Top Guns came back from a five-goal halftime deficit to beat the second-seeded Long Island Liberty, 13-12. Samantha Apuzzo led the Top Guns with three goals, Nicole Levy added two goals and two assists and Lauren Daly made 9 saves Lindsey Ronbeck and Sarah Phillips each had four goals for Liberty and Virginia Gibbons made seven saves.
In one semifinal Allie Little scored on a drive to the middle with 22.3 seconds left to give the Sky Walkers a 9-8 win over the Top Guns. The Top Guns won the ensuing draw, ultimately gaining an indirect possession near the center of the 12-meter fan with 3.9 seconds left. Manuela Cortes looked inside to Erin Ilchuck. Ilchuck was under duress and the ball was a touch high. Sky Walker goalie Katy Sharretts scooped the ground ball and hung on to end a thriller, giving the Marylanders a touch of revenge for an 8-7, buzzer-beating loss to the Top Guns in pool play.
On the game winner by Little, Top Guns' Erin MacDevitt forced a ground ball while guarding Ibello. Little picked it up on the left wing, attacked the middle and beat an otherwise-stellar Lauren Daly, who finished with 11 saves and earned all-tournament honors. Klages paced the Sky Walkers with three goals and an assist, while Apuzzo, who netted the game-winner in that pool-play game, had four goals for the Top Guns.
In the other semifinal, Taryn Ohlmiller had three goals and an assist for Yellow Jackets Team 2 and Taylor Mitchell had two goals in a 6-5 win over Liberty. Sarah Phillips had three goals for the Liberty and Kathryn Hallett had a goal and assist. Liberty goalie Virginia Gibbons made eight saves. For the Yellow Jackets Team 2, Fiona Geier made five saves with three goals allowed and Anna Tesoriero made four saves with two goals allowed.
Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament
Grace Richards, Attack, Top of the Bay
Taryn Ohlmiller, Attack, Yellow Jackets Team 2
Sarah Phillips, Attack, Long Island Liberty
Nikki Ortega, Midfield, Yellow Jackets Team 1
Samantha Apuzzo, Midfield, Long Island Top Guns
Kara Klages, Midfield, Sky Walkers 2015 Blue
Miranda Ibello, Midfield, Sky Walkers 2015 Blue
Elizabeth George, Midfield, Sky Walkers 2015 Blue
Mackenzie Burns, Midfield, Yellow Jackets Team 2
Andie Aldave, Defense, Sky Walkers 2015 Blue
Julia Braig, Defense, Sky Walkers 2015 Blue
Lauren Daly, Goalie, Long Island Top Guns