May 7, 2013

Nike/US Lacrosse South Region Report

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com

Related: National Top 25 | Northeast | Mid-Atlantic | Midwest | West

Top Performers

Katy Pridemore, Vero Beach (Fla.)

The junior midfielder tallied 12 goals and three assists over the Fighting Indians' two toughest Florida opponents in the games leading right up to their state championship blowout. Her fast-break goal with 4:29 left in the third-round play-in game against Barron Collier (Fla.) gave Vero Beach a four-goal lead at a turning point in the game, and the Indians went on to win 13-7. The Florida commit also scored the two of the first three goals of the second half against Benjamin (Fla.) in the state semifinals to spark the Indians to a 14-5 win after leading by just two at halftime.

Amanda Leavell, St. John's (Texas)

The senior midfielder scored 13 goals and added three assists in the Mavericks' three Southwestern Preparatory Conference tournament games, as St. John's won its third consecutive title. The Princeton signee had five goals in the championship win over Hockaday, an 11-5 victory. Leavell has been the spearhead to the Mavericks offense all season and looks to carry the momentum into the state tournament May 11-12.

Caroline Youngs, Milton (Ga.)

The Eagles' senior goalkeeper picked up 13 saves and had two ground balls in a 21-10 win over Lassiter – a game Milton led just 11-8 early in the second half. Youngs especially played solid in the first half, as the Trojans' dominance in draw controls led to a steady attack that amassed just four goals during that period. This is Youngs' first year as the team's starter.

Games to Watch

Hutchison (Tenn.) vs. Pope John Paul II (Tenn.) – May 10

This state semifinal game will determine who plays Ensworth (Tenn.) or Ravenwood (Tenn.) for the championship May 11. Hutchison, the defending state champion, won the first meeting of these two teams 11-7 on April 14, a game in which the Sting never trailed. It was one of only three games against Tennessee opponents that Hutchison played that was decided by less than 10 goals. Harpeth Hall (Tenn.) played the Sting to a 15-8 score in the first of two matchups this season and Ensworth lost just 10-8 to Hutchison. Pope John Paul is 13-4 going into this game.

Ursuline (Texas)/Westwood (Texas) vs. Hockaday (Texas) – May 11

As the No. 2 seed in the THSGLL Division I state tournament, Hockaday gets a bye through the quarterfinals and awaits the winner of the Ursuline/Westwood game to be played earlier in the day May 11. Ursuline, previously ranked No. 9 in the South, suffered their first loss of the season in their city finals, 12-5 to Hockaday on April 28, but advanced to the state tournament as the No. 3 seed. They had beaten the Daisies 15-13 earlier this season. The winner of this state semifinal likely meets top-seeded St. John's in the final May 12.

1. Milton (Ga.), 14-3-1

The Eagles won the rematch of last year's state championship game, breezing past Lassiter (Ga.) 21-10 in their regular-season finale May 3. Milton was on a roll going into the matchup, outscoring its last three opponents 59-2, and the team hasn't lost to a Georgia opponent all year. All three of their out-of-state losses were against teams who were nationally ranked at the time and none of them were by more than four goals. The Eagles, who are four wins away from an eighth state title in nine years, were set to play Collin Hill (Ga.) in the first round of the state tournament May 7.

2. Vero Beach (Fla.), 20-4

The Fighting Indians won their eighth-straight state final May 4 in dominant fashion, beating St. John's-Bartram Trail (Fla.) 17-3 for their 111 consecutive win over a Florida opponent. A total of 10 players scored for Vero Beach, which won 14 draws and outshot the Bears 33-11. The Indians' road to the final wasn't quite as easy. They had to get past two South Region-ranked teams to make it to the championship and pulled through in the second half of both games – earning a 13-7 win over Barron Collier in the third round of play-in games and beating Benjamin 14-5 in the state semifinal.

3. St. John's (Texas), 19-2

The Mavericks won their third consecutive Southwest Preparatory Conference Championship on May 4, defeating defending state champion Hockaday (Texas) for a second time this season, 11-5. St. John's finished as state runner-up to Hockaday last year after losing 19-18 in overtime in the final. The Mavericks earned a bye through the first round of the 2013 state tournament after winning its city tournament with victories against Lamar (Texas), 12-9, and Episcopal Houston, 16-6. They ended up playing Episcopal Houston in back-to-back games, also meeting them in the SPC tournament and winning that matchup 21-9 on May 3. St. John's – whose two losses came against two of the top teams in California on March 11 – needs just two more wins for the Division I title.

4. Barron Collier (Fla.), 19-4

The Cougars treated its third-round state play-in game against Vero Beach (Fla.) like it was the state championship game, and they played the Fighting Indians closer than any other team in the state this season. After trailing the eventual state champion just 6-3 at halftime, Barron Collier cut the gap at 10-8 with 4:38 left but Sam Jaffe's crosse was found to have too deep a pocket on a stick check and the goal negated. Vero Beach took the free position and scored nine seconds later on a fast break to make it a four-goal advantage and that sealed it. The Cougars had lost 19-9 to Vero Beach in the playoffs last year. They didn't lose to any other Florida teams this season and outscored their previous two play-in opponents 37-2.

5. Walton (Ga.), 15-1-2

The Raiders climb from the No. 8 spot after beating Lassiter (Ga.) 14-5 on April 23, a win that earned them the second seed in Area 2. They added four more wins after that, including a 13-6 game against Kentucky Country Day (Ky.), and enter the playoffs on a 15-game unbeaten streak. Walton tied Centennial (Ga.) and Westminster (Ga.) during that stretch, which began after a 19-11 loss to Milton (Ga.). The Raiders could get a second shot at Milton in the state championship, but Walton would have to beat Lassiter a second time to get there, as both are in the top half of the bracket.

6. Hutchison School (Tenn.), 21-2

The Sting just keep getting better as the season continues. They advanced to their ninth consecutive Final Four with an 18-1 win over Harpeth Hall (Tenn.) on May 4, a team they beat by seven during the regular season. Hutchison has won 18 in a row since dropping games to Milton (Ga.) and Lassiter (Ga.). Loring Gearhardt led the Sting with four goals, while Alyssa Herzog added three in the win over Harpeth Hall. Hutchison's closest in-state game was against fellow state semifinalist Pope John Paul II, 11-7 on April 14.

7. Benjamin (Fla.), 20-2

The Buccaneers had Vero Beach on the ropes in the state semifinal matchup May 3, scoring two goals in the final 66 seconds of the first half to cut the Indians' lead to 4-2. But they couldn't handle Vero Beach's halftime adjustments and were outscored 10-3 in the second half en route to a 14-5 loss. Hayley Ciklin and Riley Johnson each netted two goals to lead the Bucs, who didn't lose a game to any other opponents. Benjamin had lost 18-10 to Vero Beach during the last week of the regular season after playing to a 7-7 tie in the first half. The Bucs advanced to their first FHSAA Final Four with a notable 15-11 win over St. Thomas Aquinas in the third round of state play-in games.

8. Green Hope (N.C.), 15-1

The Falcons are set to defend their state title as the NCHSAA playoffs got underway May 3. Green Hope had a bye through the first round but enter a second-round matchup May 7 against Athens Drive (N.C.) on a 15-game win streak. The Falcons ended their regular season with four straight wins by 11 goals or more, following a notable 14-12 win over Apex (N.C.) – annually one of the top teams in North Carolina – on April 17. Green Hope's only loss came to East Chapel Hill (N.C.) in a 16-15 overtime game to open the season. The Falcons have played just three games decided by less than five goals, two of them coming against Apex, who has combined with Green Hope to win seven of the last eight state titles.

9. Hockaday (Texas), 13-4

The Daisies re-join the list after beating Ursuline 12-5 in their city final April 28 – avenging a 15-13 loss from March 5. The win gave Hockaday the No. 2 seed in the state tournament behind St. John's, as the Daisies look to defend their 2012 title. They enter the tournament coming off an 11-5 loss to St. John's in the Southwestern Preparatory Conference championship May 4, but could get a rematch in the final. The Mavericks defeated the Daisies 13-7 on March 23, and Hockaday's only other loss was by one goal to Lamar the next day.

10. Lassiter (Ga.), 12-5-1

Since opening the season 8-0, the Trojans are 4-5-1 but three of those losses were to out-of-state teams from the Maryland/D.C. area. The other two were to the state's top two teams in Walton and Milton, losses they now look to avenge if given the opportunity as the playoffs begin this week. Lassiter lost its regular-season finale to Milton, 21-10, on May 3, despite cutting a five-goal halftime deficit to three early in the second half. The Trojans need to return to their early season form – when they earned a notable win over South Region-ranked Hutchison on March 7 – to have a chance at a state title.

News and Notes

Vero Beach lives up to its motto

Vero Beach (Fla.) lived by the motto "Domin8" this season – a play on the fact it was going for its eighth straight state final win.

But it wasn't until the championship that the Fighting Indians finally put together a complete game.

The Indians never trailed Bartram Trail (Fla.) in a 17-3 win for the title May 4, scoring the first three goals and taking an 11-2 lead into halftime.

"I challenged this team with the hardest schedule this team has ever played, and it was rough," Vero Beach coach Shannon Dean said. "We had a lot of ups and downs throughout the season, and I don't think we ever had that complete game where we completely dominated.

"I challenged them in the locker room before the game, 'Let's dominate – it's been your motto all season. Let's dominate from the first minute to the 50th minute,' and they responded well, as they always do on the big stage."

Vero Beach became known as a second-half team this season. They had beaten their last two opponents by six goals or more after leading by just two and three goals at halftime.

The state championship was different. Vero Beach controlled the draws, winning 14 of 22, and out-shot the Bears 33-11, while pushing the game to a running clock two minutes into the second half.

"We knew this was our last game, so if we weren't going to have a perfect game, we weren't going to get one," said senior Meredith Baker, who was moved from midfield to defense for the last three games, but also got in on the scoring action for one goal. "We all came out hungry to win a state championship, and it feels amazing."

First State Final

Bartram Trail was playing in its first state final after becoming the first team from North Florida to reach a Final Four last year.

It took a late-season turnaround – and surprising a couple teams that beat the Bears earlier this season – to get back to state. Bartram Trail finished 16-7.

"We had one of the best schedules in the state, other than Vero Beach and maybe a few others, and we had six losses," Bears coach Megan Fanning said. "[The players] weren't used to it. It was the number of losses they had the past two years combined, but they finally woke up in April and showed how they could come back and that they can play with these teams. They were a different team in the playoffs and played to their potential."

Postseason Preview

Milton and Lassiter played in the Georgia Class 6A championship last year, and their matchup in the regular-season finale could end up being a preview to this year's final, as well.

The Eagles won the game 21-10, but it was a close one until the second half. Lassiter trailed 9-4 at halftime but made it an 11-8 game early in the second half before Milton pulled away. The Trojans won 9 of 13 draws in the first half but couldn't capitalize on offense, and the defense fell apart during an 11-1 run for Milton that turned the game in the Eagles' favor in the second half.

"Lassiter has some good athletes and played a great game," Milton coach Tim Godby said. "They're a good team, and we could very well see them in the state finals in two weeks. We have some things we need to improve on to prepare for any teams we will play in the playoffs. We will work hard in our upcoming practices and be ready for any opponents in the playoffs and not take anyone lightly."

Annie Ruland (six goals, three assists), Lydia Cassada (five goals, two assists), Brooke Winsness (two goals) and Jessi Masinko (two goals) led the Milton offense, while Lassiter's attack came from Johnna Fusco (one goal, five assists), Cydney Tutchton (four goals), Alex Fusco (three goals) and Alyssa Gattis (two goals).

Note: The Nike/US Lacrosse Regional rankings will not necessarily reflect the same order as the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 poll, which is voted on by US Lacrosse area representatives and Lacrosse Magazine contributors. LM contributors compile the regional rankings.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com every other Tuesday throughout the high school season for updates to the Nike/US Lacrosse Regional Girls' Top 10 rankings and the Nike/US Lacrosse National Girls' Top 25.


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