Lacrosse: Milton girls gearing up for stretch

Eagles eye 6th consecutive championship

This weekend, the Milton Eagles girls will host their annual Legacy Cup, putting their undefeated record on the line against two Florida schools. On Friday, they’ll play IMG Academy (6-4), ranked No. 25 the Sunshine State, according to the MaxPreps computer rankings. On Saturday is No. 3 Hagerty (7-3).

The Eagles (8-0, 4-0 in Area 4-7A), winners of five straight championships, are once again the team to beat in the highest classification. They’re ranked No. 1 in the AJC polls and No. 2 in the country by MaxPreps. USA Lacrosse Magazine has them as the No. 3 team in its South Top 10.

In addition to opening the season on a win streak, the Eagles’ last four wins have come against ranked opponents, three from 5A-6A (No. 4 Roswell, No. 9 Alpharetta and No. 3 Blessed Trinity) and one against 7A’s No. 4 West Forsyth. All were comfortable wins except Blessed Trinity, their most recent opponent, whom they beat 10-9 last Thursday.

Against the Titans, who are two-time defending champions themselves, the Eagles trailed for the first time this season but rallied with a 4-0 run in the game’s final 11:29 to win the match. Senior midfielder Maeve Simonds scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals, the final coming with two minutes left.

Though the Eagles should expect wins to be difficult to come by when playing elite competition all season, Eagles longtime coach Tim Godby believes the team can shift into a higher gear with better play.

“We’ve been kind of inconsistent this season,” said Godby, in his 19th season at Milton. “Offensively, we will have good possessions, then we’ll have some where we just don’t communicate well, or make the right decision, and let teams go on runs like Blessed Trinity did. Offensively, we’ve got to learn to have better patience and understand what the defense is taking away and what they’re giving us.

“We can execute better.”

As the Eagles prepare for the Legacy Cup, Godby said they’ve been preparing for Hagerty’s zone defense.

“It’s a different style we’re not used to seeing,” he said. “It’s going to come down to things we have to learn as a team, and do well as a team. We’ll have to learn the defense, see what they give us in the zone and play with consistency to win the game.”

After the Legacy Cup, it will be another ranked opponent on March 28, when they travel to No. 7 Lambert (9-3, 4-1) in what could determine the area’s No. 1 seed.

On March 31 and April 1, during Milton’s spring break, the Eagles will play three games in two days when they travel to the DC area to play Maryland’s Connelly School of Holy Child and Stone Ridge, and Virginia’s Paul VI. Stone Ridge is No. 11 in USA Lacrosse Magazine’s National Top 25 poll. The Eagles have played in the event every year since 2009.

“It’s always a good trip for us to see different styles of play, and teams at a higher level than us” Godby said. “It helps us to get more experience against better competition. Stone Ridge is one of the best teams in the country, so we’ll be ready for that, for sure.”

The Eagles are led by Simonds, who is committed to Ohio State and whom Godby said is one of the best two-way midfielders in the country. Through just seven games, Simonds tallied 84 draw controls and has 21 goals on 80-percent shooting. On defense, she hasn’t given up more than one goal in a game against the opponent she guards.

Molly Wade, a junior, is 54-17 on draws her last four games, good for a 77-percent win percentage, and 12 draw controls. Senior Emily Simkin leads the team in points with 20 goals and 21 assists, and Emma Heenan, also a senior, leads the team with 23 goals. Simkin is committed to James Madison and Heenan to Arizona State.

The team and, really, all of the GHSA know what the expectations are for Milton — win the championship. They’ve done that ever year except twice since 2005 and this would be their sixteenth.

“We have most of our starters returning from last year’s team,” Godby said. “We’re still trying to put the pieces together, and we’ve got new players in the mix. We’ve had some who’ve been injured, and we’ve been adjusting the lineup and rotation and we’ve made a few changes. We’re not halfway through the season yet but hopefully after spring break, we’ll be tuned up and ready.

“I told the girls, we don’t want to be playing our best right now, but at the end of the season.”