Top Guns Break Through for Gold at US Lacrosse U15 National Championship
|Samantha Geiersbach had six goals
and one assist to lead the Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.) to their
first gold medal at the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship,
powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, with a 14-12 win over Yellow Jackets
Blue (N.Y.) Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Geiersbach was one of 12 players named to the all-tournament
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.) had been knocking on the door of the gold medal game at the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, in each of the last two years. Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, they kicked in the door.
Samantha Geiersbach had six goals and an assist and third-year tournament participant Samantha Apuzzo added four goals and an assist to lift the seventh-seeded Top Guns to their first national championship with a 14-12 win over fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets Blue (N.Y.) in an all-Long Island final. The Top Guns completed an 8-0 run through the tournament that included one-goal wins over NEM&D (Md.) in the round of 16 and defending national champion Sky Walkers 2016 (Md.) in the quarterfinals.
"I'm just really happy for the girls. They worked so hard for it," said Top Guns coach Shannon Smith, whose squad lost in the semifinals in 2011 and 2012. "We came here with a goal and we achieved it."
To do it, the Top Guns needed to get the Jackets out of their pressuring, "backer" defense which has Cara Trombetta trailing one-on-one matchups on the perimeter to help or double when needed. The Jackets used that to shut out fifth-seeded Long Island Liberty (N.Y.) in the quarterfinals and stifle top-seeded STEPS 2016 (N.J.), 12-4, in the semis.
"We were trying to move the ball as much as we could, and get the ball to the open cutters," said Geiersbach, one of 12 players named to the Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team (below).
They accomplished that by winning possessions, pushing the tempo when numbers allowed, and spreading the Jackets out when they didn't.
"Apuzzo was great on the draw controls, but so were the girls around the circle boxing out and letting her get those ground balls," Smith said.
Geiersbach's first-half hat trick offset that of Taryn Ohlmiller in a see-saw frame, but the Top Guns assisted on four of their eight goals. Geiersbach and Apuzzo teamed on two of them.
"I love playing with Sammy. We've been playing since we were 10," Apuzzo said. "We know what we're going to do and we make great eye contact."
Apuzzo, Geiersbach, and midfielder Kaitlyn Cerasi accounted for all of the Top Guns goals in the second half, during which they extended an 8-6 lead into a 14-10 advantage with less than 10 minutes to play. But the Jackets, winners of the national championship in 2010 and 2011, wouldn't go quietly, even as storm clouds surrounded the complex late in the game. Amidst a deluge, Ohlmiller buried her fourth of the day at the 1:58 mark. It still wasn't over when Kaeli Huff scored her second goal with about 15 seconds left and the Yellow Jackets gaining the subsequent possession. Grace Beshlian made a final save in the closing seconds, and with the wind swirling and rain falling, the Top Guns celebrated.
"It's an honor," Apuzzo said. "It was finally our turn to win."
Third-Place Game: STEPS 2016 (N.J.) 14, BearLax 2016
Blue (Calif.) 5
Emily Wingate scored back-to-back goals less than 60 seconds apart to key a 6-0 first-half run and propel STEPS 2016 (N.J.) to the bronze medal with a 14-5 defeat of BearLax 2016 Blue (Calif.). Julia Persche fed Wingate's second goal at 19:50 that gave first-time participant STEPS the lead for good at 2-1, and Persche followed that with the first of her two tallies at 13:39. Persche then ended the run with an assist to Christine Long just before halftime. STEPS quickly expanded the lead to 10-2 early in the second half. Sara Szynal finished with three goals and Julie Krupnick made four saves. Addie Dearden led BearLax with two goals.
Semifinal: Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.) 13, BearLax 2016
Blue (Calif.) 7
Samantha Apuzzo had four goals and one assist and Kaitlyn Cerasi added three goals to lead the Top Guns into their first championship game with a 13-7 win over BearLax 2016 Blue in the semifinals. Apuzzo scored back-to-back goals 90 seconds apart as the Top Guns jumped to a 6-0 lead. Caitlin McCarthy tallied a hat trick in the second half for BearLax 2016 Blue, which reached the final four for the first time and became the second California team to do so in the five-year history of the event. McCarthy converted assists from Ashley Hill and Amanda Outcalt at 14:46 and 12:20, respectively, to bring her team within 9-6. But Nikki Sliwak's second goal and Cerasi's third helped the Top Guns answer that run with one of their own.
Semifinal: Yellow Jackets Blue (N.Y.) 12, STEPS 2016
A pressure defense and balanced scoring fueled Yellow Jackets Blue's 12-4 win over STEPS 2016 in the semifinals. After a 1-1 tie, five Jackets scored to help the New Yorkers take control of the game by halftime. Jamie Ortega had a goal and an assist during the run. Midway through the half, Jackets defender Cara Trombetta forced an errant STEPS pass that Kerrigan Miller ultimately converted for a 5-1 lead. As the half neared an end, Jackets goalie Charlotte Campbell came out of the cage to intercept a Sara Szynal pass. The Jackets worked the clock and ultimately took a 9-2 lead into the break when Katie Hoeg (2g, 1a) scored a free-position goal with three seconds left.
Lacrosse Magazine All-Tournament Team
Samantha Geiersbach, A, Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.)
Allyson Mayle, A BearLax 2016 Blue (Calif.)
Sara Szynal, A, STEPS 2016 (N.J.)
Samantha Apuzzo, A/M, Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.)
Kaitlyn Cerasi, M, Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.)
Katie Hoeg, M, Yellow Jackets Blue (N.Y.)
Kerrigan Miller, M, Yellow Jackets Blue (N.Y.)
Taryn Ohlmiller, M, Yellow Jackets Blue (N.Y.)
Olivia Conti, D, Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.)
Manuela Cortes, D, Long Island Top Guns (N.Y.)
Cara Trombetta, D, Yellow Jackets Blue (N.Y.)
Julie Krupnick, G, STEPS 2016 (N.J.)
"Keeper of Lacrosse" Sportsmanship Award
Desert Heat (Ariz.)