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Playoff run comes to an end for West Forsyth girls' lacrosse
Lady Wolverines fall 20-5 at defending champ Milton
WF KDuclos web
Milton's Emily Velez scores against West Forsyth goalie Kara Duclos, who managed to make seven saves despite an onslaught of shots from the Lady Eagles. - photo by Micah Green

MILTON – Drive south on Old Milton Parkway and a small green sign helps welcome every driver to the city of Milton – "Home of the Milton High School girls’ lacrosse team," and it lists the year of every Lady Eagles state championship.

The West Forsyth Lady Wolverines knew the challenge it faced Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAAA tournament against Milton, for few teams in the Southeast match the Lady Eagles’ history of success. Milton has won four straight state titles and eight overall in the nine seasons that girls’ lacrosse has been a championship sport in the Georgia High School Association.

"We’ve played some good teams," West head coach Dan Kaplan said, "but not of that caliber."

Eventually West succumbed to Milton’s superior depth and speed in a 20-5 loss in which the Lady Wolverines were out-shot 37-8 and went 20 minutes 27 seconds between the first and second halves without scoring.

Sarah Grady had two goals and an assist to lead West (13-5), while Peyton Erb, Channing Milford and McKinley Puckett each scored a goal. Erika Cross had two assists. Kara Duclos made seven saves under the onslaught of Milton shots.

Jessica Masinko led Milton with five goals and two assists, Madison Langley had four goals and Mackenzie Lech and Emily Velez each scored three goals.

"They’re just so deep," Kaplan said. "They just ran us down a little bit."

West’s challenge was compounded by the absence of three starters to injuries suffered in the Lady Wolverines’ first round victory over North Gwinnett on Tuesday, including junior attack Monica Martelli, the team’s leading scorer. They watched their replacements from the sideline.

It wasn’t unlike the scenario West faced entering the season. The Lady Wolverines graduated nine starters off last season’s team that ended a two-year playoff drought and reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Some reserves stepped up to become starters. Some players switched positions. The Lady Wolverines still found a way to win their second straight Forsyth Cup and reach the state playoffs.

"We’re not a team that has one key player," senior Kyle Woodall said. "We play as a team and have really good team work and play together. I think we had a really good bond."

For the first 15 minutes, Lady Wolverines slowed down their offense, deliberate with their passes to keep possession away from the Lady Eagles and shorten the game. Milford and Grady scored, Milton missed shots and the was game tied 2-2.

Then Milton flipped a switch. It started to dominate faceoffs and get groundballs. It began to force turnovers and get transition goals. Masinko broke the tie with 10:36 left in the first half to ignite Milton on a 9-0 run, thanks much in part to Langley. The junior attack scored all four of her goals during that span.

Grady ended West’s scoring drought with her second goal 5:19 into the second half.

But it didn’t take long for West to shrug off its lopsided defeat, not when it considered this game’s opponent or the injuries or attrition it overcame this season.

The buzzer sounded. The team shook hands. West players ran to their sideline and squashed together for one last team photo.

"[This season] was unreal," Woodall said. "I wouldn’t have chosen a better team to be with or a better group of girls or a better coaching staff."

That coaching staff is certain to undergo changes. Kaplan is leaving to become athletic director at Forsyth Central after starting the Lady Wolverines program.

But despite the score, Kaplan said he saw Friday night as a sign that West’s program is headed in the right direction.

"I think we earned a little respect tonight," Kaplan said. "I couldn’t be happier for my girls, because they deserve all the respect they can get. They work hard. We’re trying to become an elite program in the state. I think whoever they can bring in here … can elevate them to the next level. That’s my hope for them."