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Lacrosse: West girls roll into Final Four with 9-6 win over Roswell

West Forsyth’s girls lacrosse team punched its ticket to the Class 6A-7A Final Four on Friday with a 9-6 win against Roswell. 

A journey that started in early January culminated with a hard-fought and at times chippy win against the Hornets.  

West jumped all over Roswell to lead 5-1 within the first 10 minutes, then began to burn the clock and control draws with the help of Ansley Athey, Jenna Burrow and Noelle Kirley.  

The game plan was well executed by the coaching staff.  Offensive coordinator Erik Merkel knew he wanted to get them out running early and often to build a lead, making sure the Hornets had to chase and play from behind. 

Senior Cami Merkel led the offense with 4 goals, one assist and three ground balls.  

The Wolverines transitioned the ball from end to end as they pressured and frustrated the Hornets into playing recklessly and earning four yellow cards.  

The defense, coached by Rachel Zurheide, was its usual ferocious self with great goal keeping and quick slides to hold a team averaging 16 goals to a stingy six goals.  

Bella Steigerwalt face-guarded Roswell’s best player and held her scoreless, marking the eighth time this year Steigerwalt held a Division 1 signee to two goals or fewer.  Steigerwalt is the catalyst that keeps the defense hungry and able to hold most teams below their season average.  

Keila Reid, Reese Merkel, Morgan Tate, and Maggie Bruce rarely get credit they deserve, but are one of the reasons West Forsyth is 19-2 on the season, losing both games by one goal each. One of those losses was a 10-9 heart breaker against defending state champion Milton.  

Roswell came in with a game plan that just got away from them with the five early Wolverine goals and the domination on the draw circle.  

The Hornets played a very physical game, forcing the Wolverines into 8-meter shots and preventing West to settle into its offense. Roswell’s goalie played a great game and kept the Hornets in the game with the onslaught of West shots. 

Noelle Kirley had two goals and four draw controls, while Maddie Houlberg had one goal, Jenna Burrow added one goal, one assist two ground balls and eight draw controls, Ansley Athey finished with one goal and five draw controls, Cami Merkel had four goals, one assist and three ground balls, and Emma Anderson notched five saves in goal.

West is back in action at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Chattahoochee at West Forsyth High School.    

"The community has been great, it's been great to see them come out and support the program from youth night and now through the playoffs," West coach John Kiefer said.