Girls lacrosse sticks it to conference opponents
By Janie Peterson
For the Clemmons Courier
The girls varsity lacrosse team made school history this spring, and not just for completing a season during a pandemic.
The Titans finished the season undefeated with an 11-0 record, something that the program had not done since becoming an official sport at West. The team beat every conference opponent twice, and also won against Northern Guilford in a non-conference game. Head coach of eight years, Doug Brawley, credits his team’s success to the girls’ dedication that starts as freshmen in the JV program led by Aaron Jessup.
“Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport in the country right now, and the majority of freshmen show up the first day of practice having never touched a stick or played a game. In fact, many have not even heard of the game,” Brawley said.
The JV team is where the skill development begins for many freshmen and sophomores.
“That’s why I say it’s their dedication, because in addition to just starting when they get here, they’ll play summer ball or on travel teams in the fall, and they’ll get together on their own and practice. It’s their dedication to their craft which is probably the main reason for our success, that and the support they give each other,” he said.
Brawley says he feels a sense of pride in seeing the girls come together as a team and watching friendships develop.
“Seeing their relationships, that’s what makes me proud. Seeing any group of young people bond the way they have, especially in this COVID world. They’re a very tight group. I don’t have a lot of drama or away-from-practice issues. They’re just very supportive of each other.”
The dedication and support has clearly paid off, as evidenced by claiming the title of conference champions, which included two wins over local rival R.J. Reynolds. For the last several years, all but one of the games between the two programs has been decided by one goal. Reynolds won the conference championship in 2018 and 2019, but not this year.
“It’s a very hard-fought rivalry. Beating Reynolds twice in one year is a great accomplishment,” Brawley said.
After completing their perfect regular season, West won its first-round game of the state playoffs, beating Charlotte’s Ardrey Kell, 11-4. Brawley was pleased with his team’s ability to work together to beat so many different teams.
“I was proud of that because the state is getting girls from other areas who’ve maybe been playing the game a lot longer than we have, especially the Charlotte area, which is a hotspot for youth lacrosse,” Brawley said.
Sophomore goalie, Morgan McDaniel, was promoted to varsity goalkeeper this season after West’s former goalie transferred to another school.
“Morgan was thrown into the goal, and she has done an amazing job. She was at her best last night (in the playoffs). They scored four goals; I think they shot about six other times at least that she stopped,” Brawley said, referring to the game against Ardrey Kell.
Moving from JV to varsity was a big shift for McDaniel, but she wanted to prove to her team and coaches that she had a position to hold on the team.
“Even though this was all very nerve wracking, being a part of the team just brought out inner strength that I didn’t know I had before,” McDaniel said.
Brawley also had high praise for the team’s defensive effort in the game against Ardrey Kell.
“The defense was off the hook last night. They formed a wall around the goal that seemed impenetrable. They’re one of the key reasons we won the game.”
In the second round of state playoffs, West Forsyth lost to Weddington, who is currently ranked No. 2 in the state, and No. 3 nationally. Weddington has several players committed to play D-I lacrosse in college. Though it may seem an unfortunate draw for West, Brawley is not upset about having to play Weddington relatively early in the playoffs.
“If you wanna be the state champion you’re going to have to beat Weddington, so we might as well play them now,” he said before the game Wednesday.
Brawley felt playing opponents outside of the conference was a good experience for the team.
“I think when you’re exposed to teams outside of your area, they may play a different type of lacrosse — maybe more physical, maybe more finesse; they may be faster or slower, or have a different defense they run. Getting exposed to more teams is always a good thing.”
Despite the loss, the Titans have plenty to celebrate, including two impressive player awards. Conference coaches awarded Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year to senior Chloe Christensen and Morgan McDaniel respectively.
Christensen was grateful to have a senior season and to end her high-school career with this group of girls.
“This team worked so well on the field together — it was such a great team,” she said.
Janie Peterson is a junior first-year sportswriter for the West Forsyth student newspaper, the Zephyr. She runs track and cross country for West and is also part of the Mindfulness and Meditation Club. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, listening to music, and playing the piano. She also works at Publix.