Highland’s quest to return to girls lacrosse state final begins with win over Liberty
Highland's Jessica Crew and Liberty's Shelby Payne reach to control a draw Thursday during the Hawks' 15-3 victory in Bealeton. The Eagles hung with Highland on draws, securing nine of 20. --Photo by Adam Goings
The Highland Hawks have slightly lower expectations of themselves this season, but they still look like the best girls lacrosse team in Fauquier County.
Coming off an appearance last season in the VISAA Division II state championship game, Highland began their 2013 schedule Thursday with a convincing 15-3 victory over the Liberty Eagles on the road in Bealeton.
"I was definitely impressed. We looked good," Hawks coach Kristen Conques said. "Good assists and transition."
Highland took a 6-1 lead during the opening 20 minutes of the game with four of their goals featuring assists.
"Our passes just clicked in transition and that's what scored us goals," said Mackenzie Walker, who finished with a game-high five goals as well as one assist.
Jessica Crew, who made the all-state team last season, added three goals, while Kendall Mayer had three goals and an assist, Sophia Sirianni had four assists and two goals, and Hayden Garrett had two goals.
Some of the Hawks praised sophomore goalie Emma Walsh for helping create those scoring opportunities.
"She leads to a lot of our transition," Walker said.
"She's amazing," Crew said. "She also helps because we don't have the strongest defense this year."
Highland lost a handful of important players following its runner-up finish at state last season.
"We're not [as] strong of a team this year. It's going to be more of a challenge," Crew said of getting back to the title game. "But last year we thought it was going to be a challenge and we made it to finals, so we're hoping we can motivate them like we did last year and get there."
The Hawks ended 2012 with a 12-5 record after losing to top-seeded Cape Henry Collegiate, 14-3, in the D-II state title game. Collegaite has since moved up to D-I.
"So we're hoping for good things," Conques said. "I'm hoping that we make it to the state finals and actually win this year, finish it off."
The Hawks have advanced to at least the state semifinals in each of the past four seasons. Obviously, they posed a challenge for a Liberty team that won only one game over the past two seasons.
"It sucks when you lose, but it's nice to play a team like that so they can see what it's supposed to look like," Liberty first-year head coach Kate Deming said. "It's more a learning experience for the girls to see how a team like Highland plays."
The Hawks expanded their lead to 9-1 by halftime and 15-2 before Liberty's Sam Untiedt scored the final goal of the game. Lizzie Sabio and Shelby Payne also had goals for the Eagles, who suffered from 19 turnovers.
Liberty goalie River Dawson faced endless Highland shots because the Eagles struggled to clear the ball even when they made defensive stops. Dawson finished with 16 saves, while the Hawks' Walsh had eight.
Liberty won't play again until April 1 at Fluvanna County, so Deming will have time to help the Eagles better emulate the Highland team that beat them Thursday.
"We're not setting our expectations so high that we're going to walk away completely disappointed every time," she said. "When we start a game we set an expectation like, 'We want to get this many good passes.' Or, 'We want to score this many goals. Instead of just 'We just want to win this game.'"
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
Get Headlines Every Tuesday and Thursday By Email