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May 5, 2015

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Megan Gorman scored three of her game-high five goals in the second half to lift Vero Beach to an 11-8 win over Ponte Vedra in the Florida state championship game. (File photo by Andy Lewis)
Megan Gorman scored three of her game-high five goals in the second half to lift Vero Beach to an 11-8 win over Ponte Vedra in the Florida state championship game. (File photo by Andy Lewis)

Nike/LM HS South Report: Vero Beach's Decade of Dominance

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Nike/LM National Top 25: Boys | Girls
Region Reports: South | Mid-Atlantic |Midwest | West | Northeast

The Vero Beach (Fla.) High School girls' lacrosse team completed a decade of dominance over the weekend, winning the program's 10th straight state championship.

In beating Ponte Vedra (Fla.) 11-8 in the championship game, the Fighting Indians stretched their in-state win streak to 144 games.

"Ten years is a long time," said Vero Beach coach Shannon Dean, whose players celebrated with pink No. 10 crowns after the game. "It's really been a blur, but I had some time to reflect on the last 10 years, and it's really been phenomenal.

"There was a lot of pressure on this senior class to cement their legacy, and it marks the end of a run with a special class. I've been with this senior class since sixth grade. That's a long time to be with anyone, so it was bittersweet for me."

This title was especially rewarding, not only because of the significance of No. 10, but also because of how hard the Fighting Indians had to battle— something they haven't had to do in recent years during their in-state schedule.

Vero Beach (20-3) trailed Barron Collier (Fla.) 9-7 with less than 11 minutes to go, but rattled off six unanswered goals to win 13-9. Zan Biedenharn finished with a game-high five goals, including the go-ahead goal.

In the final, Ponte Vedra knotted the game at 6 on a free-position goal by Emma Dotsikas to start the second half, but Vero Beach scored the next four goals to put the game away, including two by Megan Gorman, who had three of her game-high five goals in the second half.

South Girls' Player of the Week

Megan Gorman, Vero Beach (Fla.)

The junior midfielder came up big for the Fighting Indians, as they won their 10th straight state title over the weekend. She scored three of her game-high five goals in the second half to lift Vero Beach to an 11-8 win over Ponte Vedra in the final, including back-to-back goals to push the Indians ahead for good after the Sharks tied the game at 6 early in the second half. Gorman also had five draw controls and the game-tying goal as the Indians scored the game's final six goals and came back against Barron Collier in the semifinals for a 13-9 win. (Photo 

Also notable: Emma Dotsikas (Ponte Vedra, Fla.), Haelle Chomo (Barron Collier, Fla.), Landon Shelley (Myers Park, N.C.), Alice Chambers (St. John's, Texas), Maddie Langley (Milton, Ga.)

The Indians played with the poise that comes with state championship experience.

"It definitely helped because we knew what we needed to do to win," Biedenharn said. "We knew we didn't need to panic because we've done it before, and we just needed to do the job and get it done. It felt good, especially being No. 10. It just shows how much the program has grown and how much we have accomplished over the years."

Vero Beach overcame some hiccups earlier in the year, as well.

Barron Collier (22-2) and Lake Highland Prep threatened to end the streak in close games as part of the Indians' 11-0 start to the year, but the biggest bumps came in the last month of the regular season. After a comeback 11-8 win over Lake Highland Prep on March 19, the Indians went 3-3 over their next six games with three out-of-state losses.

After that, Vero Beach turned it up a notch. Going into the state semifinals, the Indians had outscored their last four Florida opponents 89-18, including three playoff games. Abby Shields (54 goals, 10 assists), Biedenharn (48 goals, 22 assists) and Hannah Palau (40 goals, 53 assists) led the attack.

The close calls "made us realize teams are getting better, and it's not as easy as it once was," Biedenharn said. "We watched film and broke it down and worked hard in practice and tried to improve. ... We definitely had our ups and downs over the season, but throughout the playoff run we got it together and worked hard in practice and it showed when we won the trophy."

Dean said the competition in Florida has improved during the past couple of seasons, but the closer games made it more fun, especially in the final four.

"We knew coming in, the way the brackets were set up, that we could see Barron Collier in the semifinals and Ponte Vedra in the final," Dean said. "Those are two good teams, so we weren't going to take them lightly. For me, it was fun. I got to prepare. There were late nights, I was watching film 'til 1 in the morning, breaking it down and giving the girls tips. That wasn't always the case in the past. We had to kick it up a notch."

Barron Collier had won 21 straight games going into the semifinals, and for a brief while looked like it might pull off the upset. Olivia Ferrucci scored two straight goals for the 9-7 lead with 10:53 left, but picked up her second yellow card with about five minutes left and the game tied, and Vero Beach scored four goals in the final four minutes to win it.

Ferrucci, a North Carolina signee and U.S. U19 women's team player, finished with four goals on four shots, four assists and six draw controls. Haelle Chomo (Georgetown) had 11 saves.

"There will be a day when someone beats Vero Beach," Cougars coach Mick Ferrucci said, noting his team obviously was hoping to be that team.

Nike/LM South Girls' Top 10

1. Milton (Ga.), 14-4
2. Vero Beach (Fla.), 20-3
3. Barron Collier (Fla.), 22-2
4. St. John's (Texas), 19-0
5. Ponte Vedra (Fla.), 19-4
6. Lassiter (Ga.), 14-4
7. Kell (Ga.), 15-3
8. Hutchison (Tenn.), 19-4
9. Charlotte Catholic (N.C.), 15-2
10. Walton (Ga.), 12-6

Who's Hot?
Vero Beach (Fla.) claimed the program's 10th straight state final over the weekend, stretching its in-state winning streak to 144 games with an 11-8 victory over Ponte Vedra (Fla.) in the FHSAA championship game. The Fighting Indians held off Barron Collier (Fla.), 13-9, in the semifinals. Ponte Vedra had advanced to the final with a 20-13 win over Olympia, avenging a regular-season 16-15 loss to the only other Florida team besides Vero Beach to beat the Sharks. ... Defending GHSA Class 5A champion Kell closed the regular-season on a high note, beating Westminster (Ga.) 16-8 in a rematch of a much closer 2014 state final. It marked the Longhorns' 10th straight win.

Who's Not?
Barron Collier (Fla.) had a two-goal lead on Vero Beach (Fla.) with 11 minutes remaining in their state semifinal matchup, but the Cougars received two yellow cards in the final four minutes and played down two players to finish the game.

Games to Watch

Chapel Hill (N.C.) at Wakefield (N.C.), Wednesday

Unbeaten Wakefield (16-0) hosts Chapel Hill (11-3) in one of the better matchups of the first round of the NCHSAA tournament. The teams haven't met this season, but the Wolverines earned an easy 18-9 win early last season. The visiting Tigers have two losses to 2014 state semifinalist Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) and a loss to NCISAA foe Durham Academy, which is 19-3. Wakefield is rated No. 9 in North Carolina, according to LaxPower.com, and Chapel Hill is No. 12.

Creekview (Ga.) vs. Blessed Trinity (Ga.), Wednesday

This first-round GHSA Class 5A playoff game pits together two teams rated in the top 15 of the state by LaxPower.com. Creekview is 15-2 with losses to last year's finalists, Kell and Westminster, and Blessed Trinity is 15-2 with losses to West Forsyth — by two — and Cambridge, which is 17-1.

Nike/LM South Boys' Top 10

Kyle Richbourg scored a couple of timely goals to help lift Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) past St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) for the Highlanders' third straight state title. (FloridaLacrosseNews.com)

South Boys' Player of the Week

Kyle Richbourg, Lake Highland Prep (Fla.)

The senior scored all three of his goals in a pivotal third quarter for the Highlanders, who went on to beat undefeated St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) 13-11 for their third straight state title. With his team trailing 5-4 at the half, Richbourg scored two quick goals to open the third quarter and give Lake Highland a lead it wouldn't lose. He finished the season with a team-high 73 goals and 37 assists.

Also notable: Louie Yovino (St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla.), Chandler Dierks (Spain Park, Ala.), Tate Boyce (McCallie, Tenn.), Luke Sadd (Centennial, Ga.), Tom Garrott (Memphis University School, Tenn.)

1. Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), 21-3
2. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), 21-1
3. Episcopal Dallas (Texas), 18-2
4. Highland Park (Texas), 12-3
5. Lambert (Ga.), 16-2
6. St. Andrew's (Fla.), 16-4
7. McCallie (Tenn.), 15-2
8. Centennial (Ga.), 16-2
9. Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.), 13-4
10. The Woodlands (Texas), 16-2

Who's Hot?
Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) is back where it started at the beginning of the season after knocking off then-No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), 13-11, to win its third straight FHSAA state title. The Highlanders, who breezed past Lake Mary, 14-3, in the semifinals, won their last 11 games after a two-goal loss to state semifinalist St. Andrew's (Fla.) on March 21. Their state championship victory avenged a one-goal loss to Aquinas in the first week of the season. Aquinas had entered the final unbeaten and on a roll after beating St. Andrew's 14-5 in the semifinals. ... Episcopal Dallas (Texas) has won seven straight since its 9-7 loss to Highland Park on April 2. ... The Woodlands (Texas) enters the rankings after stunning Dallas Jesuit (Texas) 7-0 in a Super Regional final Sunday. The Highlanders have won nine straight since back-to-back in-state losses to Highland Park and Southlake at the end of March.

Who's Not?
Westminster (Ga.), a Class 5A school, suffered its first in-state loss, falling 10-9 to Class 6A Johns Creek (Ga.) in a regular-season finale. Johns Creek remains on the cusp at 12-4. ... Despite its five regular-season losses, Dallas Jesuit (Texas) could have made a case for a jump into the rankings after beating Highland Park (Texas) on April 23, but the Rangers' late-season push did last long enough. The Woodlands shut them out 7-0 in a Super Regional final on Sunday.

Games to Watch

Lambert (Ga.) at Pope (Ga.), Wednesday

This is one of the more interesting first-round GHSA playoff games, as Lambert enters at 16-2 and Pope at 14-3. The teams have not met this season. Pope has notable wins over Johns Creek, Mill’s Creek and Lassiter but lost games to Roswell, Walton and Harrison. Lambert’s two losses are to Roswell and Centennial.

The Woodlands (Texas) vs. Episcopal Dallas (Texas), Saturday

This state semifinal matchup in Austin will mark the first meeting of the year for these teams, and both enter with two losses on the season. The Woodlands is coming off a 7-0 win over Dallas Jesuit in the Super Regional final, while ESD overcame Austin Westlake 8-7 to advance. The defending state champion Eagles beat the Highlanders 10-8 in an early-season matchup last year. The Woodlands is making its second straight final four appearance. The winner of this game heads to Sunday’s THSLL final against Highland Park or Allen.

Quick Slants

South Girls' Region Notebook

St. John's (Texas) regained the Southwest Preparatory Conference crown last week to remain unbeaten, outscoring its first two tournament opponents 33-10 before edging Episcopal Dallas 7-5 in overtime in the final. The Mavericks (19-0) had lost to Hockaday in last year's SPC final before going on to win the state title.

Junior Alice Chambers came up big in overtime, winning the draw to open the period to set up Kara Wollmers for what ended up the game-winner. She also won the next one, and Lindsey McKone scored an insurance goal.

"It was a tough battle, but the girls got it going when they needed to," coach Angie Kensinger said in an article posted on the school's website. "I am proud of how they really took charge in the [overtime] periods."

St. John's gets a bye into the semifinals of the TGHSLL tournament Saturday, awaiting the winner of a first-round game between St. Michael's and The Woodlands. The Mavericks are hosting the tournament, with finals set for 1 p.m. Sunday.

***

Milton (Ga.) has been struggling to get in a groove without leading scorer Jessi Masinko (back injury), but the Eagles never trailed in a 12-9 win over Lassiter (Ga.). The Trojans were able to tie the game on multiple occasions but never went ahead, according to Milton coach Tim Godby. Maddie Langley led the Eagles with four goals and an assist, and Milton showed progress on offense in a 22-5 win over Pope the next game to close the regular season.

The GHSA postseason begins Wednesday.

***

Natalie Italiano had six goals, including the game-winner with six seconds left, as Charlotte Catholic (N.C.) rallied from a seven-goal deficit to beat Myers Park (N.C.) 17-16 in the Conference 11 final Friday. Landon Shelley had one goal and 10 assists for Myers Park.

South Boys' Region Notebook

The Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) boys' lacrosse team won its third straight state title on Saturday, topping previously unbeaten St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) 13-11 in the final.

With the win, the Highlanders (21-3) are now tied with St. Andrew's (Fla.) for the most FHSAA titles with four. Lake Highland also won a title in 2011. They are the only two schools to win titles since the FHSAA recognized the sport in 2008.

"Euphoric," junior Jackson Colling told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's the best feeling I've ever had in my entire life."

The Highlanders trailed 5-4 at halftime, but senior Kyle Richbourg scored two quick goals to start the third quarter, and a few minutes later, Colling netted two goals to widen the lead.

Down 12-7 in the fourth quarter, the Raiders bounced back to score four of the last five goals, but Lake Highland regained possession in the final minute and ran down the clock for the win.

"We were trying to take away more of their opportunities in transition and, really, we were able to win more faceoffs and it worked in our favor," Highlanders coach Chris Spaulding told the Sentinel.

Colling scored a team-high goals, Richbourg added three goals and Connor Aniello and Reid Thedford each added two goals.

Louie Yovino led Aquinas with five goals and four groundballs.

The Raiders (21-1) had beaten St. Andrew's 14-5 to advance to their first ever final, never trailing the Scots. Alex Tumminello had a team-high five points on four goals and an assist in the win.

***

Spain Park beat Vestavia Hills 14-12 to win the Alabama Division I title.

The Jaguars' only blemish on the season came at the hands of Vestavia on March 21 — an 11-7 decision they were able to avenge twice. Spain Park beat Vestavia 11-10 on April 16 before claiming the rubber match win in the final.

In Saturday's final, Chandler Dierks scored three of the first five goals of the second half, and assisted another, as Spain Park extended a 7-6 halftime lead and never looked back. Dierks finished with four goals and two assists.

Spain Park had opened the season with a 12-10 win over Georgia Class 5A's Starr's Mill, which is now 12-5. The Jaguars also own wins over two of the better teams in Tennessee and beat Louisiana state champion Jesuit-New Orleans 11-5.

***

The Woodlands (Texas) kept the THSLL state semifinals from being an all-North Division field, beating the North's third-seeded Dallas Jesuit 7-0 in a Super Regional final Sunday. The Highlanders have won nine straight since back-to-back losses to Highland Park and Southlake at the end of March. North Division rivals Episcopal Dallas, Highland Park and Allen round out the other semifinalists. Semifinals are Saturday, and the finals are Sunday.

***

Centennial (Ga.) finished the regular season with three wins last week to improve to 16-2.

The 16 wins are a program-best for most in the regular season, breaking the 2013 record of 15. The Knights are scoring 18.9 goals per game, while allowing just 8.1 goals per game.

Over the three games last week, senior attackman Nate Solomon had 18 goals and 11 assists, freshman attackman Nicky Solomon had 17 goals and five assists, senior goalie Austin Skorb had 48 saves and sophomore midfielder Luke Sadd had 36 ground balls and won 46 of 60 faceoffs.

Solomon (Syracuse) topped 600 points for his career.

The postseason begins this week in Georgia, as well as in Tennessee and North Carolina.

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