Lacrosse: Blessed Trinity girls lean on championship experience

Titans, winners of 1A-5A title last 2 seasons, gearing for another run

The Blessed Trinity Titans won’t have to wonder if they’re built to be champions for a third consecutive season. By playoff time, they’ll have already played the state’s best competition and, judging by their performance so far, there’s no question they can.

Thursday will be another big test for the Titans (12-2), ranked No. 2 in Class 5A-6A, when they take on top-ranked Creekview (10-0) in a cross-area showdown. Creekview lost 13-12 to Milton in last year’s 7A championship. It will be the first meeting between the two programs.

It could also be a barometer for the Titans’ chances against a former 7A power after winning the now-obsolete 1A-5A in each of the previous two seasons. The way this year’s playoff brackets align, if both the Titans and Creekview win their areas as expected, they’d meet in the semifinals.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty tough matchup,” Titans assistant Haley Harris said. “It should be one of the best matchups this season for us, and hopefully it’s a foreshadowing (of a semifinals meeting) for both of us.”

The Creekview game will close out what has been a very competitive month for the Titans. On March 7, they beat area rival and No. 10 Cambridge 14-7. On March 10, they lost 7-6 to Area 5 rival and No. 4 Johns Creek. On March 16, they lost 10-9 against 7A’s top-ranked Milton, but beat 7A’s No. 4 West Forsyth 9-8 in overtime their next game, on March 21. Two days later, they beat area rival and No. 6 Roswell 16-3.

Harris believes it was the Milton and West Forsyth games — a narrow loss followed by an overtime win — that proved the team has what it takes to three-peat.

“Those two games showed what we’re made of,” Harris said. “The Milton game was one of our best and most cohesive games as a team to date. The girls stepped up for each other...after the game, we told them that if we continue to play at that level for each other, there’s no doubt we can accomplish our goal.”

The Titans have 11 seniors and eight players committed or signed to play at the next level. They are senior defender Haley Cook (Belmont Abbey), senior defender Carly Coopman (Oregon), senior midfielder Reagan Hart (Navy), senior midfielder Jaclyn Jones (Navy), senior defender Kathryn McCabe (Anderson), senior defender Ava Regitz (Central Michigan), senior goalie Emily Weir (Virginia Commonwealth), junior attacker Clark Hamilton (Florida) and junior midfielder Morgan Handzel (Xavier).

Hamilton leads the team with 51 goals, followed by freshman Hannah Daley (30). Handzel and Hart each have 25. McCabe has 34 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers, followed by Coopman (21, 12), Handzel (17, 9) and Johns (15, 11).

The Titans are efficient, averaging just nine turnovers a game. They have a 93% success rate on clears. Handzel is 133-77 on draws, good for a 63% win percentage.

Titans opponents must also prepare for the defense, led by a five-player rotation of Johns, Coopman, McCabe, Regitz and Cook. The unit allows an average of just six goals a game on 10 shots, and 30% of opponent clears have been unsuccessful against their ride.

“Collectively, our defense has been phenomenal all season,” Harris said. “They do a great job of swarming in, and they work hard to get the ball to our attackers.”

In addition to talent and experience, the Titans have established a winning culture and reputation. USA Lacrosse Magazine ranks the Titans No. 8 in its South Top 10 poll, with No. 2 Milton the only other Georgia school on the list. They’re No. 8 in the country in the MaxPreps computer rankings.

After Creekview, the Titans wrap their regular season against 1A-4A’s No. 2 Fellowship Christian (12-1) on April 14, 7A’s No. 10 Hillgrove (7-4) on April 19, and Area 5 opponent Centennial (5-6, 2-1) on April 21. The Titans are 4-1 in area play.

From there, it’s onto a postseason the Titans have been gearing up for.

“Once we hit the playoffs, it’s crunch time,” Harris said. “It helps that we’ve been on the big stage before. Winning culture is ingrained. In the playoffs, it’s one game at a time, and we give it our all because we don’t know if the next game is our last.”