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GIRLS LACROSSE PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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Channing Milford and the West Forsyth girls' lacrosse team return 11 of 12 starters from last season's squad that went 13-5 and reached the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAAA playoffs. - photo by Micah Green

FORSYTH CENTRAL

Coach: Meagan McGregor, first season.

Last season: 3-14.

Key returners: D Caitlin Howell, sr.; D Elizabeth Pirello, jr.; D Hannah Smith, sr.

Key newcomers: none

Outlook: After going 3-14 in only their second season of varsity lacrosse, the Lady Dawgs are looking to improve upon that mark. Central is led by a strong defensive unit that features All-County senior defensemen Hannah Smith (34 ground balls, two goals), as well as senior Caitlin Howell and junior Elizabeth Pirello. The key to the Lady Dawgs season will be how fast some of the younger players can develop chemistry with each other. “Experience is the only area we are lacking,” coach Meagan McGregor said. “Once the girls start playing more together and understanding the game we will see a lot of improvement on the field.” Central has a young team, but that won’t stop them from striving to win more games this year. “The program will be pushed to new levels that it hasn’t seen thus far,” McGregor said.

LAMBERT

Coach: Seth Thompson, second season.

Last season: 11-6.

Key returners: MF Kirsten Barth, sr.; MF Jessica Beck, jr.; D Gabby Case, sr.; A Peyton Smith, so.; MF Ali Wilson, jr.; D Sarah Youtsey, sr.

Key newcomers: MF Sammie Caples, fr.; MF Jenna Humphries, fr.; MF Shelby Rumer, fr.; MF Kate Spiro, so.

Outlook: The Lambert Longhorns are loaded at the midfield position for the 2015 season. After coming off a very solid 11-6 season, the Longhorns are looking for even more success this season. All-County senior Kirsten Barth (30 draw controls, 29 ground balls, 19 caused turnovers) and All-County juniors Jessica Beck (30 draw controls, 24 ground balls, 19 goals) and Ali Wilson (28 draw controls, 23 ground balls, 14 goals) lead a midfield unit that will see an infusion of talent this season. Freshmen midfielders Sammie Caples, Jenna Humphries, Shelby Rumer and sophomore midfielder Kate Spiro are all expected to see playing time and will rely on Barth and her fellow upperclassmen for leadership and support. The attack is led by All-County sophomore Peyton Smith (53 goals, 26 assists, 64 draw controls, 28 ground balls, 15 assists), while the defense is headed by the senior duo of Gabby Case and Sarah Youtsey. “We know we fell down in some close games in 2014,” Lambert coach Seth Thompson said. “We are very confident that we have addressed those mishaps and will capitalize in the 2015 season and beyond.”

NORTH FORSYTH

Coach: Robert Kienle, first season.

Last season: 7-10.

Key returners: MF Rachel Hejduk, sr.; MF Brittany Smith, so.; MF Corinne Thompson, jr.; A Jess Will, sr.

Key newcomers: MF Julianna Chesna, fr.

Outlook: The Lady Raiders are coming off their best season in program history. They will look to continue that success with 17 returning players from last year’s JV and varsity teams. The midfielder quartet of senior Rachel Hejduk (32 goals, 1 assist, 25 ground balls), junior Corinne Thompson (9 goals, 3 assists, 10 draw controls), sophomore Brittany Smith (8 goals, 2 assists, 27 draw controls) and freshman Julianna Chesna will look to offset the loss of last year’s high scoring senior class which includes All-County MF Stephanie Grove (18 goals, nine assists, 45 draw controls) who is now playing at Reinhardt. Senior attackman Jess Will (11 goals, 7 assists, 21 ground balls) is expected to take the role of All-County attack Savannah Robar (28 goals, nine assists, nine caused turnovers) who now plays at Berry College. Defense was a strength for the Lady Raiders last season and the hope is that it will continue to be strong this season despite the loss of All-County defender Jenna Zirlott (26 caused turnovers, five goals, six draw controls). “One focus for our team this year will be defense,” coach Robert Kienle said. “We are working diligently on becoming a solid team unit, and we hope that our heart, pride and determination will lead us to more victories.”

PINECREST ACADEMY

Coach: Jillian DiFazio, second season.

Last season: 11-2 in a JV schedule.

Key returners: MF Molly Dankowski, fr.; MF Sarah DiFazio, so.; A Taylor Sperry, sr.; MF Alex Tilkin, fr.

Key newcomers: GK Haley Jones, fr.

Outlook: Pinecrest is coming off an impressive JV campaign in what was its first year ever as a program. The Lady Paladins roster consisted of seven girls that had never played the sport before and went 11-2 including a 13-12 win over Collins Hill in the championship game of the Collins Hill JV tournament. Coach Jillian DiFazio is looking to replicate some of that success now at the varsity level. “Our biggest challenge will be lack of experience competing at the varsity level where the skill, speed, and pace of the game will be new to us as compared to the JV,” DiFazio said. “Our girls, however, have the drive and athletic skills necessary to be competitive in our area.” The midfield trio of sophomore Sarah DiFazio (leading assists), freshman Molly Dankowski (leading goal scorer) and freshman Alex Tilkin (leading draw controls) will play a big role in how successful the Lady Paladins will be in their first season of varsity lacrosse. Attacker Taylor Sperry (leading attack goal scorer) will provide some senior leadership to a very young Pinecrest team. Freshman goalkeeper Haley Jones comes to Pinecrest Academy from the Milton area and looks to play a key role for the Paladins. “We are absolutely thrilled to start our first varsity season at Pinecrest and continue to take the next step to build a strong foundation for our girls’ lacrosse program,” DiFazio said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we are heading in the right direction.”

SOUTH FORSYTH

Coach: Chip McIlvain, first season.

Last season: 9-9.

Key returners: A Madison Mueller, jr.; A/D Keri Porter, jr.

Key newcomers: none

Outlook: This is expected to be a rebuilding year for the Lady War Eagles as the team lost a few key players to graduation. Top defender Brookey Rickman (85 draw controls, 32 ground balls, 29 goals) and offensive leader Courtney Wisler (51 goals, 19 assists, 18 ground balls, 10 draw controls) are gone and starting goalkeeper Abbey Smith (.520 save percentage) is now at Point University. That doesn’t mean that the War Eagles don’t have any returning talent, however, as All-County junior attacker Madison Mueller (50 goals, 10 assists, 23 draw controls, 30 ground balls) and Keri Porter (25 goals, 19 draw controls, 17 ground balls) are expected to have expanded roles this season. Mueller and Porter will be thrust into leadership positions this season as a lot of sophomores and freshmen are expected to fill many spots for South.

WEST FORSYTH

Coach: John Thompson, first season.

Last season: 13-5, lost in Class AAAAAA quarterfinal.

Key returners: A Erika Cross, sr.; GK Kara Duclos, sr.; MF Sarah Grady, jr.; A Monica Martelli, sr.; MF Channing Milford, sr.; A McKinley Puckett, sr.

Key newcomers: none

Outlook: The Lady Wolverines’ season has ended in the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals the past two years. This year, West is poised to make another run at a state championship as 11 of the 12 starters from last season will be back. The Forsyth County Player of the Year attacker Monica Martelli (61 goals, seven assists, 21 ground balls, 55 draw controls) is returning for her senior season. Martelli is joined by fellow All-County senior Erika Cross (39 goals, 16 assists, 36 ground balls, 57 draw controls) and senior McKinley Puckett (27 goals) at the attack positions to make up a very strong offensive unit. The midfield is led by All-County senior Channing Milford (22 goals, 19 ground balls, nine caused turnovers) and All-County junior Sarah Grady (32 goals, seven assists, 31 ground balls, 57 draw controls). If West has a weakness, it will be on defense as All-County defensemen Hannah Huggins (21 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers, two goals) represents the only significant loss for the Wolverines from last year’s squad. Huggins was a four-year starter and those types of players are never easy to replace. All-County senior goalkeeper Kara Duclos (120 saves, 7.06 goals allowed/game, .500 save percentage) should be able to help West stay in games early in the season as the defense adjusts to playing without Huggins. “The team’s strength has and will continue to be a family unit,” coach John Thompson said. “These girls have played together all spring, summer and fall, where they have created a bond between them and their families.”