Nike/US Lacrosse South Region Report
by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com
Top PerformersSydney Holman, East Chapel Hill (N.C.)
The senior attacker scored 13 goals in an 18-12 win over Green Hope in the state semifinals, then added five goals and four assists in the championship, as the Wildcats beat Charlotte Catholic 15-13 on May 18. The UNC signee holds the NCHSAA record for goals with 128 during her four-year career, passing Marvin Ridge (N.C.) junior Amy Collins, who set the career record earlier this season at 124 goals.
Eden Epner, St. John's (Texas)
The junior midfielder had 12 draw controls, six goals and three assists in the Mavericks' two Final Four games, as St. John's won its eighth state title. Epner, who missed the field hockey season in the fall with a torn ACL, finished the season with 55 goals and a team-high 54 draw controls. She was named to the All-State and Southwestern Preparatory Conference All-Conference team.
Alyssa Herzog, Hutchison (Tenn.)
The senior attacker helped the Sting to its third state title, assisting on 11 goals over the final two games. She scored two goals and had seven assists to go along with a ground ball and forced turnover in the semifinal win over Pope John Paul II. She had four assists, two ground balls and a draw control in the championship victory over Ensworth on May 11. Herzog, an All-State player, finished the season with a team-best 95 assists in addition to 35 goals and 30 ground balls.
1. Milton (Ga.), 18-3-1
Season Complete: The Eagles claimed their eighth state title in nine years, beating Lassiter (Ga.) 10-7 in the Class 6A final on May 18 to complete a 17-0 season against in-state competition. Before that, no other Georgia team came within eight goals of Milton this year, including Lassiter in the regular-season finale, a 21-10 rout. In the three state tournament games leading up to the final, the Eagles outscored their opponents 63-7, and they beat their in-state opponents by an average 16.4 goals per game. Milton, which was tied for 10th in the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 going into the state final, finished 1-3-1 against ranked teams with the win coming over Vero Beach (Fla.), which was No. 16 last week. The Eagles were led by Annie Ruland (77 goals, 54 assists) and Lydia Cassada (67 goals, 27 assists) and goalkeeper Caroline Youngs (62 percent save rate).
2. Vero Beach (Fla.), 20-4
Season Complete: The Fighting Indians played their toughest schedule in program history this season with five of seven out-of-state games coming against teams in the Nike/U.S. Lacrosse Top 25, but the competition paid off during the state tournament. They extended their in-state win streak to 111 games by going 17-0 against Florida competition, including winning their eighth-straight state final May 4. Vero Beach was 1-4 against nationally-ranked teams, earning a marquee win over No. 3 St. Anthony's (N.Y.), and aside from a 12-6 loss to No. 1 McDonogh (Md.), the Indians didn't lose a game by more than two goals. Katy Pridemore led Vero Beach with 92 goals and 29 assists, while Lexi Moirano added 53 goals and 39 assists.
3. St. John's (Texas), 21-2
Season Complete: The Mavericks won their eighth state title in program history, beating Ursuline (Texas) 15-5 in the Division I championship game May 12. The win capped a 19-0 season against in-state competition and gave St. John's a trifecta of titles this year after also winning its city and conference championships. It was the first time the team had won all three championships in one season, according to 17-year coach Angie Kensinger. The Mavericks defeated defending state champion Hockaday (Texas) to win the Southwest Preparatory Conference Championship, and they topped Episcopal Houston (Texas) to claim the city title before the teams met for a fourth time this season in a state semifinal game, which St. John's won 20-8. The Mavericks' two losses came against two of the top teams in California back in March.
4. Barron Collier (Fla.), 19-4
Season Complete: The Cougars finished 19-1 against Florida opponents, ending their season one game shy of the Final Four with a 13-7 loss to Vero Beach. They played the Fighting Indians closer than any team in the state this season and were down by just two with less than five minutes to play in a third-round state play-in game. Vero Beach was one of two Top 25 team Barron Collier played, the other being No. 17 Harriton (Pa.), who beat the Cougars 13-8. Barron Collier boasted 12 seniors, including five signed to play in college.
5. Lassiter (Ga.), 15-5-1
Season Complete: The Trojans hit a rough patch mid-season but turned it around for a strong finish to the year. They avenged a regular-season loss to Walton (Ga.), beating the Raiders 13-11 in the state semifinals, and although they fell short in the championship against Milton (Ga.), by three goals, they showed drastic improvement from a 21-10 loss to the Eagles in the regular-season finale. Cydney Tutchton, Alex Fusco and Lucy Mills each scored two goals to lead Lassiter, and goalkeeper Lauren Wetherhead finished with 12 saves. No other Georgia opponent beat Lassiter this year, and one of their three out-of-state losses came against Good Counsel (Md.), which was ranked No. 24 in the national poll last week. The Trojans own a win over Hutchison (Tenn.) and also tied New Trier (Ill.), a team that was listed at No. 2 in the Midwest at the time.
6. Hutchison School (Tenn.), 23-2
Season Complete: After making their ninth consecutive Final Four, the Sting closed out a 17-0 season against Tennessee competition with their third-straight state title. They beat Ensworth (Tenn.) 12-6 in the final May 11 after earning a 17-7 win over Pope John Paul (Tenn.) in the semifinals. Hutchison played both teams earlier this season, but only beat them by a combined six goals in the first meetings. The Sting won 20-straight games to end the year, a streak that began after back-to-back losses to Milton (Ga.) and Lassiter (Ga.). They finished 3-2 against Georgia teams and beat three of the top teams in Missouri. Chloe Duke led the team with 66 goals and 13 assists, while Sandy Smith added 55 goals, 54 draw controls and 21 assists. Lauren Atkins finished with a team-best 48 ground balls.
7. Benjamin (Fla.), 20-2
Season Complete: The Buccaneers' two losses both came against Vero Beach (Fla.), including a 14-5 decision in the state semifinals. They outscored the rest of their opponents 353-172, and won their only out-of-state game 21-5 against Northview (Ga.), which finished 15-5. Benjamin had just four seniors, five juniors and nine players who were freshmen or sophomores. The Bucs were led by Maria Dattolo (100 goals, 26 assists, 32 ground balls), Hayley Ciklin (81 goals, 75 assists, 52 draw controls, 49 ground balls), Hannah LaBovick (39 goals, 22 assists, 48 draw controls, 48 ground balls), and Dylan Malamala (49 percent save rate).
8. Ursuline (Texas), 14-2
Season Complete: The Bears won the rubber match against Hockaday (Texas), 9-7 in the state semifinals May 11, after splitting games with the Daisies earlier this season. Ursuline won the first meeting 15-13, but Hockaday ended the Bears' season-opening 12-game win streak, beating them 12-5 on April 28. Ursuline won the meeting that mattered most, though, to get a shot at the championship, where the Bears fell short 15-5 against St. John's (Texas). Senior captain Mary Kate Nawalaniec had a game-high five goals against Hockaday in the semifinals to help the Bears gain enough of a lead to pull through despite the Daisies' late rally attempt.
9. East Chapel Hill (N.C.), 16-2
Season Complete: The Wildcats won their fourth state title in program history – the first since the NCHSAA sanctioned the sport in 2010 – by beating Charlotte Catholic 15-13 in the championship May 18. The game was a rematch of a March 2 contest, which the Cougars won 13-10. Charlotte Catholic was the runner-up last year to Green Hope, who East Chapel Hill ousted in the semifinals by an 18-12 score. The Wildcats defeated Green Hope in overtime back in March during a 2-2 start to the season, after which they rattled off 14 straight wins to close the year.
10. Walton (Ga.), 17-2-2
Season Complete: The Raiders ended their season with a 13-11 loss to eventual state runner-up Lassiter (Ga.) in the semifinals on May 14 – unable to repeat the dominant performance they displayed in a 14-5 win over the Trojans on April 23. Walton entered the rematch on a 17-game unbeaten streak, which began after a loss to Milton (Ga.) and included ties against Centennial (Ga.) and Class A-5A champion Westminster (Ga.). The Raiders also own a win over Kentucky Country Day (Ky.), which finished as its state runner-up.
News and Notes
Eight is great
In 2005, when Tim Godby began coaching the girls lacrosse team at Milton (Ga.) High School, he knew nothing about the sport.
Only after he was asked about the job did he even see a lacrosse game — a men's game on television.
Nine years later he just wrapped up an eighth state championship season, as his Lady Eagles beat Lassiter 10-7 in the Class 6A final May 18.
"It's a tribute to all the girls that have come through the program and worked hard," said Godby, who found lacrosse to be similar enough to basketball, which he played in college and had been coaching. "We've had a lot of people help make it happen, from players to coaches and parents. It takes a lot of people to be successful and continue to be successful over the nine years we've won eight state championships. The biggest thing is the hard work that's gone into it."
The latest title didn't come easy.
Lassiter jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Milton battled back to take a 5-4 advantage into halftime and never trailed again. The defense and goalkeeper Caroline Youngs held the Trojans to one goal through the first 22 minutes of the second half, as the defense helped make up for Milton's uncharacteristic struggles on offense. The Eagles scored on 10 of 27 shots.
Annie Ruland and Jessica Masinko led the Eagles with three goals apiece, as six different players scored goals, and Youngs finished with 12 saves. Brooke Winsness had one goal, three forced turnovers and two interceptions.
"Our defense stepped up against a good team, and that's probably the best we've played all year [defensively]," Godby said. "Sometimes you are going to have poor shooting nights, but the defense has to be able to step up and play when that happens, and ours did at the right time. I guess it's true what they say: defense wins championships."
Godby said he is amazed by just how successful the program has become during his nine years. The Eagles won their first title in his coaching debut while the sport was still new in Georgia, but now they are becoming nationally-recognized — making it into the Top 10 in the national poll two weeks ago.
"We've shown we belong and have that recognition because of the success we've had against some of the top teams in the country," Godby said. "It's amazing how much we've progressed in a short amount of time, but success has continued to breed more success. We have a good feeder program, and we are successful at every level. We look to be contenders for several years to come."
Chance at Redemption
The members of the St. John's (Texas) girls' lacrosse team watched the game film of last year's heartbreaking state championship loss and knew they didn't want to relive that experience.
The Mavericks lost the 2012 title 19-18 in overtime against Hockaday (Texas).
This time they made sure the game was never in question, quickly taking a lead over Ursuline (Texas) and going into halftime with a 12-2 advantage en route to a 15-5 win for the program's eighth title.
"We talked about that [last year's state final] leading up to the tournament," coach Angie Kensinger said. "We came so close and just felt if we could have held the ball better, we could have won that game. That was one of the things we really tried to work on this year was ball control and having more quality possessions, and we definitely did a much better job of that."
Ball control was a big part of St. John's perfect season against Texas opponents, Kensinger said, and although the team was led by a strong class of 10 seniors, the statistics were spread around throughout the team.
Among the top contributors were seniors Lauren Resnick (80 goals), Amanda Leavell (60 goals, 34 assists, 44 draw controls, 31 caused turnovers) and Robby Rybarczyk (33 goals, 53 draw controls), junior Eden Epner (55 goals, 54 draw controls) and freshman Lindsey McKone (43 goals, 50 draw controls and 23 caused turnovers).
"It was a special team – the support of one another, the very unselfish play," Kensinger said. "It was fantastic to see their hard work pay off. They kept getting better and better the last three weeks, and the girls were just so ready. Our senior leadership was so strong, and it really showed the last part of the season."
Hutchison (Tenn.) thought two straight titles was "pretty cool," but coach Samantha Ziegler said three is "something really special."
Now the Sting seeks the kind of in-state dominance displayed by fellow South teams like Milton (Ga.) and Vero Beach (Fla.), who have won 16 state titles combined in the past nine years.
"The current juniors who have been a part of that are already talking about No. 4," Ziegler said. "It puts a big target on our back, and they know that, but they are excited about the challenge.
"I'm very proud of them for getting a third title in a row. It's hard when you go into it expected to win — how do you keep from getting complacent? They did a great job of that, but it's something that will get more difficult to handle as we go forward."
After close wins against Pope John Paul (Tenn.) and Ensworth (Tenn.) during the regular season, the Sting was dominant against both of them in the semifinals and final, respectively.
Ziegler said if her team had played like it did in the playoffs at the beginning of the season, the Sting might have been able to do something really special. They lost games to Lassiter (Ga.) and Milton (Ga.) in early March.
"The first half of the season we were not gelling well, but by the time we got to Ravenwood and Pope John Paul (April 13-14), we knew those were two big state games," Ziegler said. "We came together for those midseason games and by the playoffs we were doing stuff we hadn't earlier in the season. It seems crazy we didn't get 'til May."
Note: The Nike/US Lacrosse Regional rankings will not necessarily reflect the same order as the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 poll, which is voted on by US Lacrosse area representatives and Lacrosse Magazine contributors. LM contributors compile the regional rankings.
Check back to LaxMagazine.com every other Tuesday throughout the high school season for updates to the Nike/US Lacrosse Regional Girls' Top 10 rankings and the Nike/US Lacrosse National Girls' Top 25.