Seven Unbeatens Emerge from Opening Day of US Lacrosse Girls' U15 National Championship
|MaryKate Gerety of Sky Walkers
2016 (Md.) heads up field against Connecticut Dodgers defender
Allison Colglazier during a pool-play game at the US Lacrosse U15
National Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, Tuesday at
the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Gerety scored two goals in
her team's 15-3 win that helped the defending national champions
earn the No. 2 seed in the 32-team bracket.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A capacity 32 girls' teams from 16 states played through rain and humidity on opening day of the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Tuesday. After three games of pool play, STEPS 2016 (N.J.) earned the No. 1 seed for the single-elimination bracket that begins tomorrow. All 32 teams will compete in the bracket and have a chance to win the national title.
STEPS 2016, in its first appearance in US Lacrosse's five-year-old U15 national championship, was among seven teams to post a 3-0 record in pool play. The Chester, N.J.-based program gave up just seven goals in the three games to earn the top seed via tiebreaker over defending national champion Sky Walkers 2016 (Md.), which gave up eight goals to get the No. 2 seed. Dominant (Md.), Yellow Jackets Blue (N.Y.), Long Island Liberty (N.Y.), BearLax 2016 Blue (Calif.) and the Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.) rounded out the unbeaten teams seeded 3-7.
"They get the concept that if they make someone else look good, they look good," said STEPS 2016 co-coach Charlie Shoulberg, a former assistant general manager for the U.S. men's national team. "That's really hard to teach and it's nice to see."
STEPS 2016 defeated Stars Gold (Va.), 13-1, BearLax 2017 Blue (Calif.), 14-1, and StickBenders (Fla.), 15-5. Nicole Baiocco had three goals in the win over the Virginians, in which STEPS assisted on six of 13 goals.
"The kids love it – staying together," Shoulberg said. "We've had a team meal already. Just being a part of this event and seeing other teams from different areas as opposed to the teams you're used to seeing, they're ecstatic."
STEPS is experiencing this year what Sky Walkers did a year ago. The Maryland-based program's 2015 Blue team won the championship as a first-time entrant, knocking off two-time defending champion Yellow Jackets Team 1 (N.Y.) in the quarterfinals.
"We talk to the younger girls about the championship," said Andie Aldave, a rising freshman midfielder on Sky Walkers 2016. "It was a way to let everyone know who we are. This year all the girls know that we're trying to be back-to-back champs. It's so important for us to show that we play at a high level as a program."
Sky Walkers 2016 defeated Long Island Express 2016 (N.Y.), 11-5, before blanking Lady Trojan Gold (Ga.), 11-0, and beating the Connecticut Dodgers, 15-3. Aldave earned a spot on the Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team last year. She had four goals and three assist in the win over Connecticut and is once again playing alongside her older sister, Paige.
"She teaches me probably way more than I teach her," Paige Aldave, who's older by 16 months, said. "In the backyard, she's telling me I need to do the behind-the-back and she's showing me how to do it. Just in the game against the Dodgers, I hit the goalie with a shot and she's like, 'Place your shot.'"
The 32 teams, most in the brief history of the event, came from as close as the Sunshine State to as far away as Sammamish, Wash. The field included a mix of teams that reached at least the semifinals of US Lacrosse's four regional championships last month, the top four squads from last year's national championship and at-large teams.
"Last year helped me so much with confidence and not being afraid," Andie Aldave said. "This year, I can go out and freelance, and it feels so good to be back."
While Sky Walkers 2016 emerged from opening day in position to march toward another gold, Paige Aldave knows the competition ratchets up from here.
"To get that automatic bid [for winning] was huge, because Andie is a 2017 and you want her to be able to play in it with her team," she said. "I think we have a target on us. We'll have to play hard."
US Lacrosse Girls' U15 National Championship Seeds
1. Steps 2016 (3-0)
2. Sky Walkers 2016 (3-0)
3. Dominant (3-0)
4. Yellow Jackets Blue (3-0)
5. Long Island Liberty (3-0)
6. BearLax 2016 Blue (3-0)
7. Long Island Top Guns (3-0)
8. Yellow Jackets Gold (2-0-1)
9. Lax Maniax (2-0-1)
10. NEM&D 2016 (2-1)
11. Elevate (2-1)
12. BBL 2017 (2-1)
13. Long Island Express 2016 (2-1)
14. Stars Gold (2-1)
15. Detroit Coyotes (2-1)
16. Ultimate Elite (2-1)
17. Pacific Falcons (1-2)
18. Superstix (1-2)
19. Cardinal 2016 Red (1-2)
20. North Carolina (1-2)
21. Lady Trojan Gold (1-2)
22. BearLax 2017 Blue (1-2)
23. Minnesota Elite (1-2)
24. Eagle Stix (1-2)
25. Connecticut Dodgers (0-3)
26. Washington (0-3)
27. Stickbenders (0-3)
28. Desert Heat (0-3)
29. Bluegrass Premier (0-3)
30. Utah (0-3)
31. Storm Select (0-3)
32. Colorado (0-3)
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