Elevated Buzz: Four Long Island Teams Reach Girls' Semifinals at US Lacrosse U15 National Championships
AURORA, Colo. – In the ongoing conversation about which part of the country produces the best girls' lacrosse players in the U15 age group, Long Island programs remain in the mix alongside several of the sport's traditional strongholds. What may set the islanders apart, however, is their penchant for traveling anywhere when a chance to prove they're the best is on the line.
That's what's at stake tomorrow at Medal Day of the sixth annual US Lacrosse U15 National Championships here at picturesque Aurora Sports Park, and four Long Island teams, including three from the Yellow Jackets (N.Y.) program, earned their way into the semifinals to determine the best squad among US Lacrosse's national U15 membership.
Top-seeded Elevate (N.Y.) has allowed just two goals in five tournament games, and the second-time entrant will be joined by second-seeded Yellow Jackets 2017 Gold (N.Y.), third-seeded Yellow Jackets 2017 Blue (N.Y.), and fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets 2018 Blue (N.Y.) in tomorrow's 8 a.m. final four – the winners of which will play in the national championship game streamed live at coachesaid.com/uslacrosse beginning at 12:30 p.m. MT.
"From the time we started training in the winter, our goal was to get to the final four of the [US Lacrosse] U15s," said head coach Albert Bertolone. "We wanted to qualify and wanted to get to the final four, to be part of possibly having three teams, which is a huge thing for one organization."
Bertolone's team accomplished the former by placing second in the US Lacrosse Northeast Championships June 20-22 in Amherst, Mass., earning an automatic qualifier to this event. His group accomplished the latter by dispatching the defending national champion Top Guns (N.Y.) – another Long Island power – with a 9-8 win in an entertaining quarterfinal to conclude the day's action. Erica Shea scored five goals for YJ 2017 Gold, which jumped out to a 6-1 lead. But the champs got off the mat late in the first half and finally tied the game at 6 on Lindsey Hill's second goal of the game 7 minutes into the second frame.
From there, the rivals traded blows, until Jesse Arline scored back-to-back goals that bookended the 10-minute mark to give YJ 2017 Gold the final margin. The outcome wasn't decided, however, until the Jackets successfully stalled off the game's final 5 minutes, which included two yellow cards against the Top Guns.
The other 3:30 p.m. quarterfinal provided the same competitiveness, as sixth-seeded STEPS (N.J.) pushed YJ 2017 Blue before falling, 7-5. Jamie Ortega scored three of her four goals after the game was locked at 3 at the half to help the Jackets pull away. Allison Mastroianni scored twice for STEPS, and goalie Arielle Weissman made several key saves to keep the Jackets within reach.
Yellow Jackets 2018 Blue, which won that Northeast Championship at UMass-Amherst last month, continued its momentum by cruising past fifth-seeded Long Island Liberty, 16-5. Elevate's 16-0 shutout of ninth-seeded Eagle Stix 2017 (Ga.) marked its fourth consecutive game without allowing a single goal. Elevate failed to reach the quarterfinals last year, but the program has proven with emphasis it is a contender and entered this event with previous tournament victories this summer.
"This is the best team we have in our program, and we're hitting our stride," said head coach David Kotowski. "Half of the girls on the team played in this event last year. We're loving it. It's a great opportunity, and we've done a bunch of things together as a team. We've done white water rafting and we're going to have a picnic by one of the lakes here. We're combining a lot of fun with a lot of really great lacrosse."
Sounds like a Long Island team, indeed.
#1 Elevate (N.Y.) 16, #9 Eagle Stix (Ga.) 2017 0
#2 Yellow Jackets 2017 Gold (N.Y.) 9, #7 Long Island Top Guns 8
#3 Yellow Jackets 2017 Blue (N.Y.) 7, #6 STEPS (N.J.) 5
#4 Yellow Jackets 2018 Blue (N.Y.) 16, #5 Liberty (N.Y.) 5
Semifinals and Final Schedule
#1 Elevate vs. #4 Yellow Jackets 2018 Blue, 8 a.m.
#2 Yellow Jackets 2017 Gold vs. #3 Yellow Jackets 2017 Blue, 8 a.m.
Semifinal losers, 12:30 p.m.
Championship game, 12:30 p.m. (coachesaid.com/uslacrosse)
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