South Girls' Regional Report
by Robbie Levin | LaxMagazine.com
Five Players to Watch
Amanda Lockwood, Milton (Ga.)
Sydney DuPre, Episcopal Houston (Texas)
Kris Coppolino, Winter Springs (Fla.)
Mackenzie Smith, Vero Beach (Fla.)
Maggie Fobare, Hockaday (Texas)
1. Vero Beach (Fla.), 9-0
The Fighting Indians (22-0) lost seven players from last year's state championship squad. Gunning for its seventh consecutive title, Vero Beach will lean heavily on seniors Mackenzie Smith, Olivia Long and Gracee Hendrix.
Through nine games, it looks like the Fighting Indians haven't missed a beat. They've let up an average of 2.89 goals per game.
2. Milton (Ga.), 6-0
After not losing a single starter, Milton (19-1-1) remains the top team in Georgia. Led by midfielders Amanda Lockwood and Heather Harman, and attackers Annie Ruland and Lydia Cassada, the Eagles are a defense's worst nightmare.
And Milton's defense isn't bad either, allowing just four combined goals in its last three games.
3. Winter Springs (Fla.), 9-0
Winter Springs took a step forward in 2011 with its first state championship game appearance. If the Bears (19-5) want to knock off perennial power Vero Beach, they will need significant production from senior attacker Kris Coppolino and senior midfielder Kelly Garrett.
Winter Springs has already looked up to the challenge, beating top regional teams St. John's (Texas), Hockaday School (Texas) and Lake Highland Prep (Fla.).
4. Westminster (Ga.), 6-0
The Wildcats (21-1) have only lost two games over the last two years, both to Milton. With leading goal-scorer Eve Knapp returning, Westminster is the clear A-4A favorite.
The Wildcats have raced out of the gates to a 6-0 start, which includes an 11-10 defeat of Episcopal (Va.).
5. Cy-Fair (Texas), 3-1
Fourteen seniors return for last year's Texas runner-up. The Iron Maidens (16-2) bring back four 20-goal scorers and veteran goalie Natalie Weitkunat.
The Iron Maidens escaped Episcopal (Va.) in overtime, but lost a 15-3 decision to Milton (Ga.).
6. St. John's (Texas), 5-2
After a shaky start, the Mavericks closed out 2011 on a 12-1 run. This year, St. John's (18-8) will rely on a stout defense led by Alexa Mullins and a speedy midfield that includes Sarah Urdahl and Amanda Leavell.
The Mavericks already have five wins but lost a pair of high-scoring thrillers to Florida teams: 22-18 to Winter Springs and 17-15 to Bishop Moore.
7. Episcopal Houston (Texas), 2-1
Mike Donnelly, who served as the coach for the Episcopal Houston boys' squad for the past seven seasons, takes over a team that has been one step away from contending for a state championship the last few years.
Under former coach Regan Bosch, now an assistant coach at USC, Episcopal beat St. John's in the 2010 Southwest Preparatory Conference Title game. A few weeks later, St. John's went on to win the state title. Last year, St. John's recorded a one-goal victory over Episcopal in the state playoffs.
While Donnelly said his offensive strategy will remain similar to the one he used as the boys' coach, he will have to tweak his zone defense approach.
"You can play zone in girls' lacrosse, but it's totally different," Donnelly said. "You can't stay in front of the goal because of shooting space. It's going to change pet defenses and things I like to do."
A native Long Islander who played collegiately at Potsdam, Donnelly has been impressed by the talent in Texas, but noted there is not as much depth as in traditional lacrosse hotbeds. Donnelly said the lacrosse scene in Texas has grown "exponentially" over the past 20 years, and much of the reason for the progress is the collective push from area coaches.
"If my team gets better, their team gets better," Donnelly said. "You elevate your game according to the competition. Now I'm seeing that the girls' side is the same thing. This is a huge community of lacrosse players down here. It's pretty special."
8. Apex (N.C.), 5-1
Apex dominated North Carolina last year, scoring at least 14 goals in every game. The Cougars (20-0) lost a lot of their offensive firepower, but they return all-conference attacker Katie Burnet.
Apex has more or less run through its early-season competition, but did fall against Green Hope (N.C.) 15-12.
9. Hockaday (Texas), 5-2
The Daisies won 10 of 11 last year before falling to St. Johns in the state semifinals. Maggie Fobare will lead Hockaday (17-5) in its quest for a third state title in five years.
The Daisies are 5-0 against in-state opponents thus far, but lost 16-15 in double overtime to Lassiter (Ga.) and 22-12 to Winter Springs (Fla.).
10. Sacred Heart Academy (Ky.), 4-0
The Valkyries (17-4) lost to Kentucky County Day twice but beat the Bearcats when it mattered most, in a thrilling, 13-11 double-overtime state championship game. They'll meet for the first time in 2012 on March 26. Sophie Ford, Kentucky's Defender of the Year, returns with midfielder Olivia Solomon, who finished third on the team last year with 20 goals and 14 assists.
Cy-Fair (Texas) at St. John's (Texas), April 5
In a state with a cluster of elite teams, the Cy-Fair-St. John's matchup is emerging as the state's most palatable rivalry. The squads have faced each other eight times in the past three years, with each team winning four games. Of those eight contests, three went into overtime and two were for the state championship. St. John's has won when it mattered most, as the Mavericks captured the past two state titles. Last year, a short-handed Cy-Fair squad pulled within one goal with 22 seconds left to play, but St. Johns escaped with the victory.
"Our teams always match up pretty well,"
said St. John's coach Angie Kensinger. "It's always a very intense
game, a real fight to the finish."
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