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Defense leads West Forsyth girls lacrosse to crucial win over Centennial
West Forsyth junior Channing Milford (left) scores despite tight coverage from a Centennial defender in the Lady Wolverines' 9-8 victory Tuesday at home. - photo by Andrew Hirsh

Every week, West Forsyth’s girls’ lacrosse coach Dan Kaplan picks a word for his players to focus on.  He’ll put it in bold letters on their schedules, remind them of it passing through the hallways and reiterate it in practice.

This week’s word: validation.

The Lady Wolverines have certainly played like an elite team this season—going undefeated in the region thus far—now, it’s about validating that notion.

And that’s exactly what they did on Tuesday, taking down Centennial at home, 9-8.

“I’ve never wanted to beat a team so bad,” said senior defender Hannah Huggins. “I’ve never been more excited to play. I’m so proud of my team and how we came out, and it feels so good to beat (Centennial).”

After ending the first half tied 4-4, West pulled away early in the second, scoring four straight goals. However, the Lady Raiders came storming back, cutting the deficit to one with 2:17 left in regulation.

So Kaplan called a timeout. He gathered the troops, calmed them down and reminded them what needed to be done.

“I told them, ‘Win the draw, win the game,’” he said. “That’s our motto.”

Monica Martelli did just that, gaining possession for West and bringing play to Centennial’s side of the field. A combination of crisp passing, patience and some ill-advised fouls from Centennial allowed the Lady Wolverines to control the ball until the clock struck zero, giving them the much-needed victory.

Martelli, a junior attacker, also scored three goals, a team-high. Freshman attacker Kelly Guthrie chipped in a goal and an assist, and seven different Lady Wolverines found the back of the net.

But the offense wasn’t the biggest difference-maker; not according to Kaplan. In his mind, his girls’ staunch defense is what brought home the win.

“Centennial didn’t score their first goal (of the second half) until about 12 minutes in,” he said. “They had a little flurry, a little run, which is expected … but our girls were ready to play. They kept telling me in school ‘We’re winning this game.’

“Coach Thompson put in a great defensive scheme for us, and the girls responded by doing the plays exactly how we set up. We ran with a slightly different twist, and they responded.”

West has three regular season games left, including contests against area foes Chattahoochee and Alpharetta. The Lady Wolverines are 5-0 in Area 3-AAAAAA, and if they can maintain that unblemished record, they’ll be in fantastic shape heading into the playoffs.

“This sends us into the region championship game with momentum,” Kaplan said of Tuesday’s win. “The girls really wanted to beat this team; they have a lot of respect for Centennial. They’re coached well, they play hard.

“By beating them we validated to the state that we belong.”