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Lacrosse: West girls continue dominant playoff run against Cherokee
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West Forsyth senior Cami Merkel brings the ball up the field Monday during the Wolverines' 22-1 win over Cherokee in the second round of the Class 6A-7A playoffs. - photo by Jacob Smith

West Forsyth's girls lacrosse team won in dominant fashion Monday, capturing a 22-1 victory over Cherokee and advancing to the Class 6A-7A Elite Eight.

West continued its hot streak from the start of the playoffs, when the Wolverines beat Brookwood 21-1. 

“I think we just topped it,” West head coach Chris Kiefer. “We always talk at the beginning of the season about peaking. When are we going to peak? Right now, we have peaked at the right time.” 

Nine different players scored for West in Monday’s game. Cami Merkel led the way with a game-high five goals. Mikaela Barbieri scored four of her own, and Jenna Burrow and Madison Houlberg both scored three. `

“It’s a great team effort,” Kiefer said. “It’s very impressive. We have a lot of good girls on the team that can take the ball to the cage and score, but distribution and transition is the name of the game. If we can go from a save to a goal, we’re hard to stop.” 

If distribution and transition is what Kiefer is looking for, he should look no further than the Wolverines' performance tonight. West assisted 15 of its 22 goals. Burrow had a game-high three assists, while Barbieri assisted two goals. 

The defense once again stood tall, allowing just one goal off of a free-position play late in the second half. Kiefer said he credits his goalie Emma Anderson and Bella Steigerwalt as two defenders who keep his team grounded. 

“I mean, they’ve given up two goals in two game,” Kiefer said. “We challenge them every game. Just because you come off, there can’t be a drop off. Our defensive line right now is very impressive. They’re a cohesive unit.” 

One key that might separate West from the majority of their opponents is not just the depth on the bench from the athletes, but the depth of coaches ready to teach the team from the sidelines. 

“We have an offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, goalie coach and a head coach,” Kiefer said. “Most teams can’t say they have that. The more you can specialize in something, the better you can get at it.” 

West (18-2) is ranked No. 2 in the state behind Milton, which beat the Wolverines 10-9 earlier in the season. If the Wolverines want revenge, they will have to face Milton in the state championship. 

West would have to get through either Kell or Roswell in the Elite Eight, then a semifinal match. Kiefer said his coaching staff will attend the Kell/Roswell game on Tuesday to do their own personal scouting. 

West’s quarterfinals match will be Thursday afternoon.