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2018 GIRLS LACROSSE PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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Lambert's Gabby DiVirgilio checks to see how close Cambridge's Claire Xiao is during the Longhorns' 9-8 loss Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in the Class 6-7A state semifinals - photo by Brian Paglia

Forsyth Central

Head coach: Meagan McLeod, fourth season

Last season: 7-10

Key returners: A Ansley Balberde (Jr.), D Kaitlin Flannigan (Jr.), MF Madison Goldberg (Sr.), MF Hailey Ririe (Soph.)

Key newcomers: MF Lauren Sabo (Fr.)

What to know: The Bulldogs program has made steady progress under McLeod, now in her fourth season in charge. Despite losing a few key players, McLeod says the team’s confidence has never been higher and expects that to translate into an exciting season.

Lambert

Head coach: Travis Church, first season

Last season: 16-6, lost in Class 6-7A state semifinals

Key returners: A Sammie Caples (Sr.), MF Gabby DiVirgilio (Soph.), D Reilly Duerk (Sr.), A Jenna Humphries (Sr.), A Shelby Rumer (Sr.), GK Heidi Shafer (Sr.)

What to know: First-year head coach Travis Church comes to the Longhorns after five seasons coaching the sport in Connecticut, and he inherits a Lambert team coming off its best season in school history. 

But the Longhorns graduated nine players off last year’s team, making depth a possible issue. Still, Lambert has a core of five seniors that should provide steady leadership, led by first-team all-county defender Reilly Duerk, and one of the county’s top players in first-team all-county middie Gabby DiVirgilio (31 goals, 72 ground balls).

North Forsyth

Head coach: Robert Kienle, fourth season 

Last season: 9-9

Key returners: Alexis Anderson, Julianna Chesna, Darien Eagen, Jordan Smith, Meghan Smith, Hannah Triche, Jillian Zirlott

Key newcomers: MF/D Alondra Garcia (Jr.), GK Carlie Henning (Jr.), A Kaitlyn Mohr (Soph.)

What to know: Teams know by now that the Raiders’ attack centers on Julianna Chesna. The senior and University of Alabama Huntsville signee set school records last season in goals, draw controls and ground balls. 

Elsewhere, North should have a cohesive defensive unit and improved speed in the midfield. If the Raiders also improve their focus during games, they could be a sleeper team to watch. “I think we have the ability to turn a few heads this year,” Kienle said. 

Pinecrest Academy

Head coach: Jillian DiFazio, fifth season

Last season: 11-8, lost in Class 1-5A first round

Key returners: A Ella Brinkley (Jr.), D Nika Brown (Jr.), MF Molly Dankowski (Sr.), D Maya Green (Sr.), GK Haley Jones (Sr.), D Maddie Lynch (Sr.), A Lindsey McCabe (Sr.), MF Katherine Palumbo (Sr.), MF Alex Tilkin (Sr.)

What to know: The Paladins are hoping the experience gained from last season’s state playoff appearance, the first in program history, will pay dividends this year. Returning a host of contributors should help, too. 

There’s experience at every level for Pinecrest, led by first-team all-county middie and Mercer signee Molly Dankowski (91 goals) and second-team all-county goalie Haley Jones, who just signed with Occidental College. 

South Forsyth

Head coach: Travis Pearre, second season

Last season: 9-9

Key returners: GK Kayla Casey (Soph.), MF Mackenzie Cole (Sr.), MF Maddie Ford (Jr.), D Kira Hearns (Sr.), A/D Morgan Hearn (Sr.), D Olivia Hill (Soph.), D Katelyn Housler (Sr.), MF Camryn Kraus (Sr.), D/A Sarah Mele (Soph.), A Lauren Murtha (Jr.), D Carly Smith (Jr.), MF Izzy Parker (Sr.), A Tatum Weiss (Soph.)

Key newcomers: A Hannah Algren (Jr.), MF Lexi Kugelman (Soph.), A/D Erin Murtha (Fr.), MF/D Mary Madden Pehrson (Soph.), MF/A Avery Wycoff (Fr.)

What to know: No team in the county returns as much experience as the War Eagles, which features three first team all-county selections in Izzy Parker, Camryn Klaus and Kira Hearns, and they have it at all levels. Parker had 25 goals at attack last season, Klaus had 71 goals at middie and Hearns caused 19 turnovers at defender. Another year in head coach Travis Pearre’s system should help too. The second-year coach thinks how the team handles adversity will determine how much they can accomplish this season.

West Forsyth

Head coach: Barney Marchand, second season

Last season: 8-10

Key returners: A Grace Bell (Soph.), GK Tori Gadsden (Sr.), D SB Juneau (Soph.), MF Ella Madson (Jr.), MF Kate Pulliam (Jr.), A Olivia Van Duyse (Sr.), A Madison Voshall (Sr.)

Key newcomers: A Maddie Houlberg, A Cami Merkel, MF Savanna Sabol, MF Kelsey Sowa

What to know: West missed the state playoffs last season for the first time in program history, but it has plenty of reasons to believe that will be an aberration. The Wolverines will be young again, and Marchand is bullish on the freshmen talent, but they also return several contributors, led by first-team all-county middie Ella Madson (32 goals, 83 ground balls). 

Losing second-team all-county middie Ashley Hannigan for the season to an ACL injury certainly hurts, but Marchand believes the team’s depth is improved this season, which will be his final with the program; it’s already been announced he’ll be the boys lacrosse head coach at Denmark next season.