East Chapel Hill has come full circle with its girls’ lacrosse program, with one of its own alumnae as head coach of the defending state champions.
First-year coach Emily Sternbach played on the first girls lacrosse team at East and helped the Wildcats win three club state championships before before the NCHSAA sanctioned the sport in 2010.
Sternbach is taking over an East Chapel Hill team that finished 16-2 last year and won the N.C. High School Athletic Association girls’ lacrosse championship in 2013. But it graduated seven players with more than 170 goals. Record-setting Sydney Holman scored 128 goals. Fellow graduates Allison Morsberger and Cassie Watters provided much of the rest of the offense.
“We will never be the same team as we were last year, but that doesn’t take away from our potential and where we think we’re headed,” Sternbach said. “Years like this surprise you, because new talent is discovered and different people step forward to lead.”
Junior Marissa Creatore (17 goals, 5 assists) and sophomore Farrell Guest (14 goals, 6 assists) are the leading returning scorers for the Wildcats. Sternbach said she’s also counting on returning players Maddie Futch, Marina Jones and Liz Jensen to organize the midfield and veteran Christine Kolk to lead the defense.
“My high school coach Meredith Meade would tell us after we won states that this is the time to work harder than ever,” Sternbach said. “We haven’t reached a plateau but only a steeper part of the mountain.”
There are new three area teams: Jordan, Wake Forest and Sanderson.
Teams to watch
Green Hope (17-2): The Falcons’ only two losses came to eventual state champ East Chapel Hill, and Green Hope returns firepower. San Diego State signee Katherine Smith (72 goals), Campbell signee Mackenzie Koeller (39 goals, 19 assists) and junior Lilly Stanley (52 goals, 35 assists) are back.
Durham Academy (12-6): The Cavaliers came up just short of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association championship last year. North Carolina senior recruit Naomi Lerner and junior Chloe Lewis, who is committed to Duke, lead the veterans.
Cardinal Gibbons (15-3): The Crusaders are led by one of the top seniors in the country, Maryland recruit Shelby Scanlin (35 goals). Rebekah Camak, a Meredith recruit, and sophomore Erica Skowron also are back.
Apex (13-5): A perennial power, the Cougars bring back conference player of the year junior Mia Castagnero (53 goals, 30 assists), who has committed to Richmond. Also returning are junior Abbey Flynn (44 goals, 15 assists), senior goalie Rose Redfoot, Liberty recruit Erin Cornell (49 goals, 13 assists) and Old Dominion recruit Jessie DeLuca (27 goals, 16 assists). The Cougars’ new coach is Mike Bagnasco, a former assistant to coach Sara Fellows, who is now in grad school.
Athens Drive (12-6): The Jaguars return Coastal Carolina commitment Madeline Bromley (48 goals, 22 assists) and senior midfielder Haley Jay Lohmiller (35 goals, 8 assists).
Ravenscroft (14-5): The Ravens took one of three head-to-head games against Durham Academy and will be led by Davidson senior recruit Rachel Hianik, juniors Olivia Aschman and Cailin Dorsey and sophomore Anna Collawn.
Wakefield (12-4): The Wolverines will look to seniors Ashley Blawas (40 goals, 17 assists) and Abby Blakely (32 goals, 9 assists) to contend for the league crown.
Broughton (10-7): The Caps have four of their top five scorers back, senior Kelsey Dupere (65 goals, 25 assists), junior Sydney Fry (51 goals, 11 assists), senior Sara Joyner (28 goals, 2 assists) and junior Harris Parker (17 goals, 16 assists).
Players to watch
Sarah Oechslin, Jr., Panther Creek: Attacker had 30 goals and 9 assists for the 9-7 Catamounts.
Holly Hite, Jr., Middle Creek: Midfielder had 23 of her team’s 83 goals in 2013.
W.E. Warnock: 919-932-8743