High School Girls

March 26, 2013

Nike/US Lacrosse Midwest Region Report

by Jonah Rosenblum | LaxMagazine.com

Related: National Top 25 | Northeast | Mid-Atlantic | South | West

Top Performers

Kelsey Murray, New Trier (Ill.)

The only thing stopping the Trevians attacker these days is the weather. Two of New Trier's first three contests were cancelled, but in the one game the Trevians did play, Murray was electric, posting five goals and four assists to help New Trier to an 18-3 win over Oak Park-River Forest.

Autumn Koh, Glenbrook South (Ill.)

The Titans' star goalie has helped Glenbrook South surrender just three goals combined in its first two contests of the 2013 season, as the Titans surrendered two to Lake Zurich (Ill.) and one to Stevenson (Ill.). Glenbrook South has now surrendered two or fewer goals twice this season, equaling the number of times the Titans accomplished that feat all of last season.

Sami Gruning, Guerin Catholic (Ind.)

The sophomore was named by coach Brian Billand as a player to watch during the winter lacrosse season — that was before the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 start in the spring, with a 5-4 win over Penn (Ind.) and an 11-8 win over St. Joseph's (Ind.) to lead off their season.

Games to Watch

Lassiter (Ga.) vs. New Trier (Ill.) – April 5

Lassiter is off to a smoking hot start, having won their first seven games, including a 13-9 victory over the Hutchison School (Tenn.). Lassiter has been fueled by a dynamic offense that has poured in at least 17 goals in six of its seven contests to open the 2013 season, including 18 against a fairly decent Etowah (Ga.) team. Still, the Peach State power has plenty to prove, having lost 17-5 to Winter Springs (Fla.) and 14-9 to St. John's (Texas) during last year's otherwise stellar 14-5 campaign. What better chance to prove themselves than a meeting with the Trevians, who finished last season with a 23-3 mark led by one of the best players in the region in Kelsey Murray. The game will take place at Bishop Ireton in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mason (Ohio) at New Albany (Ohio) – April 6

The Comets and Eagles were neck-and-neck in last season's contest, before New Albany finally pulled it out, 14-13. Once again, the two teams face off early in the season, though Mason should be warmed up by then, having already played four teams, including Mariemont (Ohio), by April 6. New Albany will still be getting its feet wet. Nevertheless, Comets coach Paul Limpert said "that will be a test for us," especially given that the Eagles were the team that knocked the Comets out of the 2011 state playoffs.

1. Loyola Academy (Ill.) 2-0

The Ramblers have managed to get in a couple of games despite the freezing cold weather that continues to plague the Chicago area. So far, so good as Loyola has trounced its first two opponents by a combined score of 36-1. The Ramblers will be tested in the month of April with six consecutive games against teams from the Washington, D.C., area, numerous battles against top regional powers in Edina (Minn.), Eden Prairie (Minn.) and East Grand Rapids (Mich.), and contests against in-state rivals Hinsdale Central, New Trier and Lake Forest.

2. New Trier (Ill.) 1-0

The Trevians started their 2013 campaign with a balanced offense, as five different players notched multiple goals in their season-opening 16-3 victory over Oak Park-River Forest. Now, New Trier heads east to take on four different teams in two days. The Trevians will look to contend with national powers St. Stephen's & Agnes (Va.) and Good Counsel (Md.) as well as a pair of teams in Lassiter (Ga.) and Holy Child (Md.) that have combined to post an 11-0 record to start the season. New Trier coach Kristen Murray returns to the area as a Hall of Famer, as she is part of Baltimore Friends' 2013 Hall of Fame Class.

3. Lake Forest (Ill.) 0-0

Unlike their Land of Lincoln rivals, the Scouts have a relatively calm start to their 2013 schedule. They play two teams in Lake Zurich (Ill.) and Vernon Hills (Ill.) that finished a combined 15-20 last season, both of which they beat by nine goals in 2012. Then they take on newly minted programs at Lake Forest Academy (Ill.) and Carmel Catholic (Ill.). The key question is whether those games will be enough to prepare the Scouts for their April 11 contest against New Trier, which coach Julie Levy has admitted is one of their big goals for the season, defeating the Trevians, that is.

4. Culver Academy (Ind.) 0-0

Debi Trau has now been with the Eagles for a full year, allowing her to settle in and adjust to the Midwest lacrosse scene. Both Debi and her husband, Peter, are veterans of the East Coast lacrosse scene and look to bring that experience to a Culver squad that has a fairly rich history of its own. If the transition from Susanna Wilcox, who departed to serve as the head coach of DePauw's new women's lacrosse program, to Trau affected the Eagles last year, it hardly showed, as they went 17-2-1, with each of their losses coming by a single goal.

5. East Grand Rapids (Mich.) 0-0

Can the Pioneers pull off another perfect season? They went 28-0 in 2012 — but they never took on any teams from outside of the state of Michigan. This season, East Grand Rapids takes on Loyola Academy (Ill.), New Albany (Ohio) and Medina (Ohio). Another undefeated season would allow East Grand Rapids to claim not only regional supremacy but also a place in the national Top 25. The Pioneers better not fumble putting the key in the ignition as they'll take on Okemos (Mich.) early, and the always-dangerous Chieftains will surely be out for revenge after two nine-goal losses to the Pioneers last year.

6. Upper Arlington (Ohio) 0-0

It's helpful the Golden Bears are returning a few of their core players in Syd and Sam Farwick and Molly Plasket. Upper Arlington begins against a Woodward Academy (Ga.) team that has already scored 20-plus goals on two separate occasions this season though the War Eagles are plagued by a susceptible defense. The Golden Bears then take on in-state rivals Worthington Kilbourne and Sycamore, which finished a combined 28-6 last year. It's worth noting that Upper Arlington dispatched each by nine goals last season.

7. Blake School (Minn.) 0-0

The Bears have a couple of tough games early, including their opener against Cretin-Derham Hall (Minn.), which they edged 15-12 last season. Just one week later, the Blake School takes on Lakeville North, which they defeated 15-14 in 2012. It will be interesting to see what kind of confidence sophomore Jordan Chancellor brings to the Bears after notching the game-winning goal in last year's state title game as a freshman. Perhaps most impressive, Chancellor buried the game-winner despite her coach, Laura Mark, instructing her not to shoot. We'll see if Chancellor can help Meghan Bauer run the Blake School's attack.

8. Medina (Ohio) 0-0

The Battling Bees will be heavy favorites in their season-opener against Magnificat (Ohio) and slight favorites against Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio), but all bets are off when Medina squares off against a Sycamore team that it beat twice by a combined three goals in 2012. Medina, which won its last seven contests of the 2012 season, carries plenty of momentum into its 2013 campaign, according to coach Amanda Wilson, especially given that perhaps three-fourths of her team plays together during the summer with the Midwestern Force. "They never really settled down or lost that drive," Wilson said.

9. Sycamore (Ohio) 0-0

The Aviators begin their 2013 campaign with an interesting contest against Glenbrook South, which has surrendered just three goals in two victories to commence its 2013 season. Mariemont, Upper Arlington, Medina, Mason round out an exceedingly difficult first five for the Aviators, particularly when you consider that Upper Arlington and Medina accounted for all three of Sycamore's losses last season. Last season's 10-1-1 start will be difficult to match.

10. Mason (Ohio) 0-0

The Comets competed well in 2012, and according to coach Paul Limpert, his young team gained a lot of confidence due to the way it played top in-state opposition tough. Last season, Mason stumbled out a 2-6 start before rallying to win seven of its final nine games. "I think this year you're going to see a whole different start to the season," Limpert said, noting that the Comets' 2013 schedule isn't quite as brutal as last year's. Still, Mason has a couple of tough games sprinkled into its early schedule. Its opener against Seton School is likely to be competitive, and it lost to Mariemont, the Comets' third foe of the 2013 campaign, and New Albany, their fifth foe, last season.

News and Notes

Battling Bees battle all offseason long

Bees are well known for their sociability. Just like the animals for which they're named, the Battling Bees spent a lot of time together in the hive, before stinging everyone in their path en route to a 16-3 record last season.

Medina (Ohio) coach Amanda Wilson said that she is fortunate that three-fourths of her players compete together during the summer on the Midwestern Force. The time spent together means that the Battling Bees don't have to spend much time getting to know each other come high school lacrosse season.

Beyond the time they spend together on the field, they also have a team dinner every Friday. This is done without Wilson's prompting, although she certainly is pleased to see her team spending so much time together off of the field.

"They're definitely very close," Wilson said.

Citing the work of attacker Amanda Rom, who Wilson said doubled her statistics from the 2011 in one game last season, Wilson noted how much her team improves every offseason.

"This is my third season with them, and every year, I'm always so blown away by players that I watched the year before and just saw so much potential that just wasn't there and then they come in the next season and it's a whole new person," Wilson said.

Wilson also said that she has seen tremendous improvement from midfielder Elena Schorr, who like Rom, is a member of the Midwestern Force.

"She's got her stick skills so fine-tuned that when she moves it's almost effortless and kind of hypnotic to watch," Wilson said. "She's so fit and so in tune with what she's doing now that she's really dangerous on the field."

Finally, sophomore Alex Smith, another Force member, and junior Sally Doyle have worked their way to the core of Medina's defense.

Comets' time to shine

On the face of it, the Mason Comets are an average lacrosse team. They finished 9-8 playing mostly Buckeye State competition.

Yet, the Comets' record is deceiving since four of their eight losses came by a single goal. Of their one-goal losses two were to Sycamore, one to New Albany and one to Medina, teams that finished the 2012 season with a combined record of 45-10.

"We were pretty happy with where we were at," coach Paul Limpert said. "We always take on a schedule that, as far as difficulty goes, is easily one of the top five schedules in at least our state if not our region."

Indeed, they never lost to a team that finished the season with less than 13 wins, and of their three blowout losses, two were to Illinois powers New Trier and Loyola Academy.

"We go outside of our region," Limpert said. "We go to find those teams. We went to New Trier and we went to Loyola. We took it on the chin there with a couple of huge teams that we knew we were going to struggle against. We like to look in the jaws of the lion, so to speak, and see what we're made of."

Of course, between the chance to take on New Trier and Loyola Academy last year and a long offseason, the Comets have come back in far better shape, according to their coach.

"There are a couple of girls in there that have totally remade themselves as players," Limpert said. "It's not that they weren't good in the first place, but they've done a ton of work in the offseason with their stick skills and their fitness. They didn't sit down and rest on their laurels from last year. They definitely came back with an attitude that they're going to push to be even better."

Limpert is hoping that the difference between a one-goal win and a one-goal loss is equivalent to the difference between a sophomore and a junior, because that is the difference this year for Mason: A sophomore-driven team has turned into a junior-driven team.

"Having come so close, they're coming back this year with a whole lot of confidence," Limpert said. "Sophomores, you can be good, you can be an impact, but you're really not mature enough to understand how to compete with the big girls, so to speak, and now that they are the upperclassmen, I think they're coming back with a whole lot of confidence, especially coming off of a very competitive year like that."

Among the sophomores-turned-juniors that "will turn some heads," according to Limpert, are "a physical presence" in midfielder Allie Specht and a fellow midfielder in Tori Blakeman "who really upped her game during the offseason."

It will be players like Blakeman and Specht who will be counted on to help prove that as it relates to last season's 9-8 finish, looks can be deceiving.

Early bee catches the worm?

The Battling Bees will have to live up to their moniker early in the 2013 season as they tussle with Sycamore, which they bested 10-8 in last year's state semifinal game.

"We get a good competition in," coach Amanda Wilson said. "We know that we're going to see them later in the season so it's good to just kind of get a feel for what Sycamore is going to be like. The bad side is that it's still so early in the season that we're not finely tuned yet. We still have a couple of kinks to work out, but hopefully by the time the season rolls out, we'll be able to get that stuff together and fold out the wrinkles."

Medina faced the same challenge in 2012, facing Sycamore in its third game of the season. The Battling Bees were able to prevail, 8-7, in overtime, for what would prove to be one of three one-goal wins on the season. They also lost to New Albany in overtime and to Upper Arlington by two goals. Wilson said the competitiveness of her team is hardly accidental.

"If the other team gets a goal on us, that's fine, but we're going to rally back and go twice as hard and make sure we end up on top," Wilson said. "It's kind of like a never lay down and keep on fighting mentality."

Check back to LaxMagazine.com every other Tuesday throughout the high school season for updates to the Nike/US Lacrosse Regional Girls' Top 10 rankings and the Nike/US Lacrosse National Boys' Top 25.

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