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April 28, 2015

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Photo courtesy Charlotte Latin
Photo courtesy Charlotte Latin

Nike/LM HS South Report: Charlotte's Sweet Song

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

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

Carson Song hasn't just been a part of three straight titles for the Charlotte Latin (N.C.) boys' lacrosse team.

He's been the catalyst for a lot of success for the Hawks during his four years on varsity – even if he isn't always the one scoring the goals.

The senior attackman and team assist leader recently reached the 400-point milestone, and the next guy on the program's all-time points list has about 265. Song reached 300 points in the NCISAA championship game last year, and with 35 goals and 79 assists this season, he now has 159 goals, 255 assists for 414 career points.

"He's had a great group of guys he's been playing with throughout high school that are all seniors this year that have helped him reach that milestone," Latin coach Dick Sipperly said. "He has great vision, he's able to distribute the ball to some guys that handle the ball very well, and he's had help with guys scoring a lot of goals on his passes."

Song, who is headed to Brown next year, reached 400 career points and 100 points for the season in the same game, in a 14-10 win over Charlotte Christian on April 10.

Nike/LM South Boys' Top 10

1. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), 20-0
2. St. Andrew's (Fla.), 16-3
3. Highland Park (Texas), 11-3
4. Episcopal Dallas (Texas), 16-2
5. Lambert (Ga.), 14-2
6. Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), 19-3
7. McCallie (Tenn.), 12-2
8. Westminster (Ga.), 16-1
9. Centennial (Ga.), 13-2
10. Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.), 11-4

Who's Hot?

St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) takes its perfect record into its second straight FHSAA Final Four after fighting off a strong Barron Collier (Fla.) team, 12-10, in the third round of state play-in games. Defending state champion Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) advanced to its seventh straight Final Four by outscoring its five postseason opponents 95-24. ... Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.) is reaping the rewards for taking on one of the most challenging schedules in the South. Although the Crusaders lost four of their six games, all of those losses were against teams currently ranked or receiving votes in the national poll. They've won nine straight since then, outscoring their opponents 142-30. ... Westminster (Ga.) has won eight straight games since an 11-9 loss to Boys' Latin (Md.) and is coming off a 16-2 win over one-loss Allatoona (Ga.).

Who's Not?

Jupiter (Fla.) ended its season Saturday with a 12-9 loss to St. Andrew's (Fla.) in a third-round state play-in game. The Warriors' four losses all came against the three Florida teams still ranked (two were against the Scots) and finished with a solid 19-4 record despite playing among a tough South Florida schedule. Still, Jupiter dropped out of the rankings to make room for a streaking Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.).

He is actually one of three seniors to achieve milestones in the last few weeks. Jackson Moonin (Lehigh) scored his 100th goal last week in a 15-8 win over Cannon School (N.C.), and Owen Armstrong (Denison) topped 200 points in a 16-2 win over Forsyth Country Day on April 7. Moonin now has 30 goals on the season.

"They've really impacted our program," Sipperly said. "They have been leaders in helping us win the last three state championships in a row, and we are hoping we can do the same this year."

Sipperly has plenty of leadership he can count on with the largest class of seniors he's had with 22. The experience and chemistry they have together has shown through an 11-3 start to the season with the losses coming against St. Anne's-Belfield (Va.), defending NCHSAA Class 3A champion Cardinal Gibbons and Charlotte Country Day (N.C.) with the latter two decided by a one-goal margin.

Latin will have a chance to avenge its loss to Charlotte Country Day when the teams meet again Tuesday. Before that 9-8 loss on the road April 9, the Hawks hadn't lost to an NCISAA opponent in four years.

"We have a very talented group of young men in our program right now," Sipperly said. "As seniors, the hardest thing to maintain is all the other things that are going on, making decisions on colleges, prom dates, where they are going to be next year and moving away from their friends. A lot of it is the emotional side rather than the Xs and Os.

"We are in good shape Xs and Os wise. It's the outside things that are the challenge. Those things are getting out of the way now, and I think the boys are getting focused and ready to make a good playoff run."

Boys' South Player of the Week

Cameron Guernsey, Jesuit-New Orleans (La.)

The senior led the BlueJays to their fourth straight Louisiana High School Lacrosse League championship over the weekend, tallying four goals and one assist in a 9-3 win over St. Paul's (La.) in the final. He was named the game's Offensive MVP. Guernsey also had six goals in the semifinals against St. Thomas More (La.) and scored three goals and assisted on four others in another playoff win over Caddo Magnet (La.). He also was a big part of the BlueJays title run last year when he finished with 46 goals, 24 assists, 25 ground balls and five forced turnovers.

Also notable: Connor Aniello (Lake Highland Prep, Fla.), Nick Iznaga (St. Andrew's, Fla.), Marco Robertson (Dallas Jesuit, Texas), Andrew Phelan (Wando, S.C.), Carson Song (Charlotte Latin, N.C.), Nakeie Montgomery (Episcopal Dallas, Texas)

Boys' Games to Watch

Coppell (Texas) at Dallas Jesuit (Texas), April 28

This North district playoff game will determine one of the final two spots into the THSLL Super Regionals, as the top four teams in each of three districts advance. St. Mark's (Texas) and Allen (Texas) will play for the other Super Regional berth, while Highland Park (Texas) and Episcopal Dallas (Texas) are the top seeds and have byes into the regional. Jesuit (6-5) went 6-3 in regular-season district play, ending with an upset win over Highland Park, which hadn't lost to a Texas opponent. One of the Rangers' three district losses was to Coppell, 4-2. The Cowboys are 8-7 overall and were 5-4 in the district. Super Regional games take place May 2-3.

St. Andrew's (Fla.) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), May 1

This state semifinal matchup is one that many in South Florida would have liked to see happen in the regular season. The teams both have a strong tradition of success, yet haven't met since 2012. Now, the meeting has even more significance. St. Thomas Aquinas is trying to advance to its first state final and become the first unbeaten FHSAA boys' lacrosse state champion, while St. Andrew's – a team that once had a firm grip on Florida state titles – is seeking to get back on top. The Scots' last title came in 2012, after knocking out the Raiders in the Elite Eight.

Nike/LM South Girls' Top 10

Girls' South Player of the Week

Mary Carter Putman, Lassiter (Ga.)

Putman led Lassiter through a tough week of games, which included wins over South-ranked Walton (Ga.) and Hutchison (Tenn.). She tallied a team-high 11 goals over that stretch and her leadership as a team captain proved key as the Trojans went 4-0 for the week. The senior midfielder has 47 goals this season.

Also notable: Caroline Petersen (Barron Collier, Fla.), Natalie Wallan (Charlotte Catholic, N.C.), Gabby Sposato (Vero Beach, Fla.), Griffin Gearhardt (Hutchison, Tenn.)

1. Milton (Ga.), 12-4
2. Vero Beach (Fla.), 18-3
3. St. John's (Texas), 16-0
4. Barron Collier (Fla.), 22-1
5. Lassiter (Ga.), 14-3
6. Ponte Vedra (Fla.), 18-3
7. Kell (Ga.), 13-3
8. Hutchison (Tenn.), 17-4
9. Charlotte Catholic (N.C.), 13-2
10. Walton (Ga.), 11-6

Who's Hot?

St. John's (Texas) remains unbeaten after winning the TGHSLL North district championship over the weekend, beating Woodlands 18-8 in the final. The Mavericks' 16-0 record includes wins against four teams from California. They now head into the Southwest Preparatory Conference tournament Wednesday. ... Lassiter (Ga.) moved back into the rankings last week with the help of Kell (Ga.) – a team the Trojans edged 8-7 earlier this season – beating Hutchison (Tenn.). This week, they proved themselves worthy on the field, first by beating Walton (Ga.) 16-10, then Hutchison (Tenn.) 12-9. Lassiter's three losses all came against Maryland/D.C. area teams. ... Charlotte Catholic (N.C.) rejoins the rankings. The Cougars won 12 straight to end the regular season, after a 1-2 start that included its only in-state loss (14-11 to Lake Norman) and a win over Coppell – the No. 2 power-rated team in Texas, according to LaxPower.com. They also accounted for Cardinal Gibbons' (N.C.) only loss.

Who's Not?

Walton (Ga.) falls from the No. 5 spot after suffering back-to-back losses to Lassiter (Ga.) and Hutchison (Tenn.). The Raiders are 11-6, but they have played a challenging schedule that includes several South-ranked teams, as well as some strong out-of-state competition. ... Sacred Heart (Ky.) drops out after suffering its first two losses of the season to a pair of Indiana teams.

Girls' Games to Watch

Milton (Ga.) at Lassiter (Ga.), April 28

The annual regular-season finale for these two teams just got a little more interesting with Lassiter proving itself against two South-ranked opponents last week. The Trojans (14-3) are in their first year under Angela Brunner but seem to be peaking at the right time, which bodes well for a competitive game against top-ranked Milton. Lassiter lost to the Eagles 14-10 in this game last year, after losing 10-7 in the 2013 state championship.

Kell (Ga.) at Westminster (Ga.), April 30

This is a rematch of last year's state final, which Kell won 11-10 for its first ever state title. Westminster had won the previous four Class 5A championships. The Wildcats, whose lone loss is to Hutchison (Tenn.), ironically were pushed out of the South rankings last week – through no fault of their own – after Kell beat Hutchison (Tenn.), which caused some ripple effects and re-shuffling. This is a game that could push them back in or keep them out.

Vero Beach (Fla.) vs. Barron Collier (Fla.), May 1

These two teams meet in an FHSAA state semifinal game for the second straight year, as the Fighting Indians knocked the Cougars out of their first Final Four with a 15-9 decision. The two teams also met early this season, and Barron Collier gave Vero Beach a scare before the Indians pulled away late for a 14-9 win. The Indians carry a 143-game in-state win streak into this game and have won nine straight state finals.

QUICK SLANTS

Boys' South Region Notebook

The Jesuit-New Orleans (La.) boys' lacrosse team celebrated its 10th season with another state championship.

The Blue Jays defeated St. Paul's, 9-3, on Sunday afternoon in the final for its fourth straight title. For a team that has been known for its overpowering offense, the defense gets the credit in this one.

"Defense has been the strong point of our team all year,'' Jesuit coach Steve Krobert told the Shreveport Times.

Jesuit limited a St. Paul's offense which had beaten then-undefeated Byrd (La.) 14-5 in the semifinals.

This time, the Wolves were held to just three goals and two of those came in the final eight minutes. Goalie Rob Hinyub was named Defensive MVP after recording five saves while splitting time in the cage. Read more atwww.shreveporttimes.com.

***

St. Andrew's (Fla.) makes its return to the FHSAA state tournament after missing for the first time last year. The Scots used a 6-0 run over the final seven minutes to beat Jupiter (Fla.) 12-9 in a third-round play-in game Saturday to advance. It was the second time the Warriors had lost to St. Andrew's this season. Nick Iznaga had the go-ahead goal with three minutes left and finished with three goals. Find more at FloridaLacrosseNews.com.

***

Lake Mary (Fla.) advanced to its first ever state tournament by knocking out four-time semifinalist Ponte Vedra (Fla.) in a second-round play-in game and edging Maclay (Fla.) 7-6 in the third round. It now meets two-time defending state champion Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), which has played in six straight Final Fours and advanced to the last five championship games.

***

Wando (S.C.) made winning its third state title look relatively easy, beating Fort Mill 13-6 to complete an undefeated season.

The two teams were meeting in the finals for the third consecutive year with Wando claiming the 2013 title and Fort Mill winning it last year. Wando also defeated Fort Mill, 17-5, on Feb. 28.

Senior Andrew Phelan scored four times and sophomore Ryan Lipsky added three goals for the Warriors (18-0).

"It's very special to see all of the hard work pay off for these guys," Wando coach Lance Renes to the Charleston Post & Courier. "The team set high goals and they never let up all season. To have the first undefeated season in school history, that's really special for this team. I'm very proud of the way they played today and all season."

***

Episcopal Dallas (Texas) ended the regular season with a 10-6 win over a rising Dallas Jesuit (Texas) squad that handed Highland Park (Texas) its only in-state loss. Nakeie Montgomery led the Eagles with six goals on seven shots. Episcopal Dallas has won five straight since suffering its only in-state loss – a 9-7 decision against Highland Park.

Jesuit has won three of its last four going into a North district playoff game Tuesday against Coppell. The Rangers had been missing several players for most of the season but was back to full strength for the last three games – wins over Allen and Highland Park and the loss to the Eagles.

***

Centennial (Ga.) earned a historic win last week when it beat Milton (Ga.) for the first time in program history. The Knights won 23-8 to improve to 13-2.

Nathan Solomon had three goals and six assists and is now 16 points from 600 for his career. Nicky Solomon (three goals, four assists), Zach Levy (three goals, one assist, 11 of 13 faceoff wins) and Brendan Spence (three goals, one assist) also had hat tricks.

Girls' South Region Notebook

It would have been understandable for the Lassiter (Ga.) girls' lacrosse team to experience a down season in Angela Brunner's first year as head coach.

But the Trojans have exceeded even her expectations during their 14-3 start.

Lassiter entered the season with three big holes to fill as a result of the graduation of midfielders Cydney Tutchton (Old Dominion) and Alex Fusco (Gardner Webb) and attacker Lucy Mills (Kennesaw State). On top of that, Brunner brought in what she called a completely different coaching style and philosophy that returning players had to adjust to.

The Trojans weren't fazed, as they won their first nine games before losing three straight in Maryland to open April. They haven't lost since and especially turned it up a notch last week with wins over rival Walton (Ga.) and two of the top three teams in Tennessee – four-time defending state champion Hutchison and No. 3-rated Ensworth, according to LaxPower.com.

"They have transformed since the beginning of the season, and they are just playing like a team right now," Brunner said. "They believe in each other, they believe in themselves and they believe in the coaching staff. Since begin of season, we've put in a brand new defense and brand new offense and really focused on fundamentals. I believe that has been key to our success so far this season."

Brunner spent extra time with the seniors during the offseason to build trust in them, and they bought in and have remained solid, motivated leaders.

Lassiter especially has shown improvement on offense, where the team slows the ball down more than past years and doesn't rely on just one or two players. Nine different players scored in the 16-10 win over Walton (Ga.), which Brunner said goes back to the emphasis on teamwork.

The road doesn't ease up for the Trojans, who spent Friday and Saturday playing three games in Tennessee before most players participated in national team tryouts on Sunday. Now they face perennial power Milton (Ga.) in another rivalry game Tuesday.

"In the middle of the season, we went to Maryland and played some really great competition and learned a lot about the team and what we needed to do to prepare and play in those types of games," Brunner said. "We were able to talk about strengths and weaknesses after that, and we spent a lot of time studying and fixing those things. As long as we can stay mentally tough and keep control of our emotions, we should do very well against Milton.

"We are physically pretty tired, but adrenaline and motivation will get use through these games. These are the games you dream about playing in and playing well in all year."

***

Barron Collier (Fla.) is enjoying its best season to date with its only setback being an early-season 14-9 loss to Vero Beach (Fla.).

The Cougars (22-1) rolled into their second straight Final Four with a 16-6 win over a solid Pine Crest squad. Olivia Ferrucci (UNC) had six goals on six shots four assists and eight draw controls, sophomore Emily Browne added five goals and an assist and freshman Caroline Petersen held Pine Crest's top threat to just two shots.

Now Barron Collier looks forward to a rematch against Vero Beach in the semifinals. The Fighting Indians knocked the Cougars out in this same game last year.

***

Hutchison (Tenn.) went 3-1 last week with a notable win over Walton (Ga.), and underclassmen standouts Griffin Gearhardt (132 points) and Elizabeth Farnsworth (130) now have already passed the Sting's single-season point record with four potential playoff games left. Gearhardt had 13 goals, 12 assists and nine groundballs over the four games last week, while Farnsworth had 18 goals, one assist, 14 draw controls and 13 groundballs.

***

Natalie Wallon had six goals and seven takeaways to lead Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic to a 15-5 win over Marvin Ridge (N.C.) last week. Both teams are power-rated in the top seven in the state.

***

Coppell (Texas), which is now 17-2 and was ranked at one point this season, has won 11 straight since a pair of out-of-state losses. The Cowgirls are power-rated No. 2 in the state behind St. John's.

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