Three titles up for grabs for county’s top girls teams
by Carlton D. White
May 16, 2014 04:00 AM | 2992 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff photos by Erin Gray (Harrison) and Kelly J. Huff (Kell, Lassiter)
Staff photos by Erin Gray (Harrison) and Kelly J. Huff (Kell, Lassiter)
While Mount Paran Christian’s baseball team will be vying for a state title, three local girls teams will be competing for championships in their own “Super Saturday.”

At 3 p.m., Kell will host Westminster for the Class A-AAAAA girls lacrosse championship.

Kell (19-1) is in the state finals for the first time, while Westminster (17-4) has won state titles each of the last four years, since smaller schools split off from the larger ones.

“I think having that finals experience is a huge plus for (Westminster),” Kell coach Todd Utt said. “They’ve been there, so they know what to expect. For us, we have to control our emotions from the start. We have to be patient on offense and play good defense and not get caught up in the moment.”

Although Westminster has postseason experience, it doesn’t have a victory over Kell this season. One of the Lady Longhorns’ wins was a 14-9 triumph over their Area 2A-AAAAA rival a month ago.

“I think we have a little advantage, since we’ve seen them before, but it’s more difficult to beat a team the second time you see them,” Utt said. “The stakes are higher now, and teams make adjustments, so plans can change.”

Like Kell, Walton’s girls lacrosse team is also in a state final for the first time.

The Lady Raiders (14-6-1) reached the title game with a 13-12 overtime victory over Lassiter, and must go on the road to face eight-time state champion Milton for the Class AAAAAA crown at 5 p.m.

Milton (18-3) has won eight of nine state titles since lacrosse became a sanctioned sport, while Walton is in the finals after five consecutive semifinal-round losses.

“(Getting to the championship) is always something I knew this team could do,” Walton coach Mandy Ryan said. “It was just a matter of having the right pieces at the right time.

“Lassiter is a rival, regardless of when we play them, so that was a big win for us. Now, it’s nice to get an opportunity to play for a state title. I hope the kids play to their ability and make things difficult for Milton.”

Milton won the only meeting between the Area 2AAAAAA rivals during the regular season, 18-8.

“Milton wants to control the pace,” Ryan said. “We have to take that away. They’re fast with their decision-making and their shots. We’ve updated our tempo at practice and played a lot of out-of-state teams. Hopefully, we’ll be ready Saturday.”

Harrison will also be in action Saturday, matching wits with Grayson for the Class AAAAAA girls soccer championship at 5 p.m. inside Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

Harrison (21-0), ranked 12th nationally in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, will be facing another unbeaten in Grayson (21-0-1), which is ranked fifth by the NSCAA.

“Grayson’s a matchup problem for anybody,” Harrison coach Steve Riccard said. “We’ll have our hands full. On paper, it looks like it will be a great game.”

Grayson’s strength this season has been its offense, scoring at an average clip of 5.8 goals per game. The Lady Rams are averaging 4.5 goals in the playoffs.

Harrison’s strength has been its defense.

The Lady Hoyas have scored at a 4.8-goal average, they’ve given up only three goals all season. Their defensive unit —Isabel Heckman, Melissa Cameron, Katlyn Kauffman, Paige Porter, Lauren D’Ambra and Madi Good — have joined goalkeepers Allison Leone and Kelsey Daugherty in a streak of more than 1,280 minutes without allowing a goal. That’s a streak of 16 consecutive shutouts dating back to March 7.

“Grayson has a lot of firepower,” Riccard said. “I feel like we’re facing the Lakers of the ‘Showtime’ era, so we’ll have to score goals and do our best to stop them.”

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