High School Girls' Season Rewind: Northeast Region (June 13)
by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com
1. St. Anthony's (N.Y.), 16-1
Player of the Year
Alexandra Bruno, Garden City (N.Y.)
Alexandra Bruno continued to carry out the Trojans' legacy of elite scorers.
The senior attacker has been a force all season long, even as her team lost more games than accustomed this season. Garden City's five losses match its combined total from the previous four seasons prior, but the Trojans emerged as a beautiful swan in the postseason, thanks largely to Bruno's efforts.
In Garden City's win over Eastport-South Manor (N.Y.), Bruno scored a team-high five goals and added a pair of assists. In a tight victory over Wantagh (N.Y.) to secure the Nassau County championship, Bruno proved the difference, combining with teammate Catherine Dickinson to score 11 of the team's 14 goals.
The duo was effective all season long as Dickinson placed second on the Trojans in goals scored. Even in Garden City's loss to McDonogh (Md.), both Bruno and Dickinson posted hat tricks.
But at season's end, it was Bruno who once again stood out as the Trojans' top threat. The senior earned Tournament MVP honors after tallying six goals against Canandaigua (N.Y.) to help Garden City secure yet another Class B state title. It was the Trojans' seventh straight state crown.
Postseason MVP honors were far from Bruno's only accolade of the season. She was also an Under Armour All-American and No. 6 on ESPN's Top 100 after finishing the season with 93 goals and 41 assists.
After Westwood (Mass.) played 26 games without a loss in 2011, two programs decided to toss out the red flag in 2012.
First, there was Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass.), which upended Westwood in its season opener. Then, there was Needham (Mass.), which a month later handed Westwood its second defeat of the season. Suddenly, the Wolverines found themselves with two losses in the same season for the first time since 2007.
"We weren't surprised," Westwood (Mass.) coach Leslie Frank said. "It just exposed our weaknesses and gave us something to work on. Throughout the season, we've been building confidence in the younger players, just a camaraderie and a teamwork and finding each other on the field. We're getting better every day."
The losses were surprising, especially considering the Wolverines had no problem with either team last season. They topped the Warriors 21-11 in their first meeting, and then won by a similar margin in the postseason, 15-7. Westwood downed Rockets by 10 goals in their first meeting and by six goals in their postseason encounter.
Westwood's loss to Needham snapped a winning streak that extended past 2005.
"We don't take too much worry either way," Frank said. "At the beginning of the season where we lost a lot of key players but we returned a lot of key players and the additional players to the team are young, we sort of expected that. We talked a lot about that in the preseason because we had a number of games before our first loss in the preseason where we were taking it on the chin."
While Needham and Lincoln-Sudbury are traditional powerhouses, the veteran coach has noticed an increased competitiveness throughout the state.
"There are teams everywhere," Frank said. "The competition is awesome."
Frank noticed the increase in play as she sat in the stands for the Algonquin (Mass.) versus Longmeadow (Mass.) game, which featured two teams with a combined record of 38-6. The T-Hawks will square off against Westwood in the state Division I finals Friday.
But as the Bay State began to imagine a world in which the championship trophy was no longer glued to Leslie Frank's fingers, the Wolverines looked toward the future. Even after the final whistle twice forced them to contemplate their shattered invincibility, the Wolverines trekked on.
"Every time we had a tough game, we realized some of the things we needed to do better," Frank said. "There were some tough opponents that we just brought our "A" game to. We sort of battled consistency throughout the season, but what they're showing is a real resilience."
Now, Westwood is back in a familiar position. The Wolverines are one game away from another state title.
"It's less about winning, more about the journey," Frank said. "Everything I say, it sounds so cliché, but it's kind of true. They love being in the hunt, and whatever happens on Friday, happens."
Ironically enough, Westwood advanced to the state title game with a win over a familiar foe: Lincoln-Sudbury. The Wolverines pulled out the win with their usual mix of fundamentals and defense. They dominated the draw, 16-6, including a 9-3 advantage in the first half. When Lincoln-Sudbury came back late to pull within two goals, Westwood won the all-important draw, allowing it to run off the rest of the clock.
Frank said that there was no single player who was garnering all of the draws for the Wolverines. Rather, it was a team effort.
The Wolverines' improved defense was also a team effort. After Madison Acton erupted for eight goals in their first meeting of the season, Leslie Frank crafted a defense that held Acton to just one goal in their postseason meeting. The veteran coach said it was hardly a complicated maneuver; she had Celia Kondrick, her sophomore track star, face-guard Acton.
"Teams can work around a face-guard pretty easily," Frank said. "Everyone is pretty skilled at breaking a faceguard so again we got lucky and the rest of our defenders were right there with Celia and trying to push her out and give her the weakest angle possible. They were effective, but again, with another half, they might have figured out some additional ways to get open."
Indeed, after taking a 10-2 lead at the beginning of the second half, Westwood nearly let its lead slip against Lincoln-Sudbury. But the Wolverines able to hold on, on the strength of a key draw control, to win 11-9.
"This is an opponent that if there was a third half, they could have come back and beat us," Frank said. "If there was a series like professional teams, it might be 3-3 and we would be going into Game Seven. That's the caliber of the opponent."
Just as surely as you can create an endless list of the big wins St. Anthony's compiled this season, you can create an endless list of Anne Heagerty's high-scoring performances for the Friars. The senior midfielder was outstanding all season long in leading St. Anthony's to a 16-1 record.
"She's dominated in our top games against Garden City (N.Y.), Chatham (N.J.), Bryn Mawr (Md.) and Manhasset (N.Y.)," St. Anthony's coach Corinne Broesler said. "She has been a star player for us through and through."
According to Broesler, Heagerty's talent stems as much from her versatility as her speed.
"I've coached unbelievable attackers and really strong defenders or goalies, but she can play anywhere," Broesler said. "She'll dominate in every position, which is kind of incredible."
Heagerty was pivotal in the Friars' biggest win of the season, a 14-9 triumph over the eventual Class B state champions Garden City (N.Y.). She scored five goals and two assists in the monumental victory.
"She does thrive under pressure," Broesler said. "Big players, they want that pressure on their back. They step up and they lead their teammates. That's why I'm such a big fan of hers because she really is big-time. She's going to be an incredible player in college. She's going to do just as well in college as she did in high school. She's awesome."
Heagerty's success wasn't limited to one game. She was good from start to finish. In St. Anthony's second game of the season, a 17-6 defeat of Manhasset, Heagerty hit the back of the net six times. She later posted four goals and two assists in a 19-12 victory over Sacred Heart Academy (N.Y.). She also posted a hat trick against John Carroll.
"She's incredibly talented. She can beat anybody one-on-one and go to goal," Broesler said. "She really thinks like a coach and you don't get that a lot with high-school kids." Broesler said. "The midfielder is not usually the quarterback of your offense but in a lot of ways she was because of how smart she is."
She is also a force when it comes to ground balls and draw controls.
"It's hard when the only recognition kids get in the paper is goals and assists," Broesler said. "If you guys had ground ball stats and draws and caused turnovers and things like that in the midfield that are really, really important to our team, she dominates in all of those categories."
Heagerty's vision and defensive prowess also need to be factored in among her defining characteristics.
"She sees the field really well," Broesler said. "As soon as somebody is open, they're going to have the ball on their stick. Her stick skills are really incredible and defensively, her lateral speed, her footwork, her ability to break down her steps, to slow another player down are really strong."
Perhaps most telling was the 5-second pause that ensued when Broesler was asked what Heagerty needs to work on. Her answer: her shooting. Our answer: not much.
Heagerty has committed to play collegiately at Georgetown.
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