Milton girls eying consistency, still dominating

Eagles, 6-time defending champions, enter key stretch

The Milton Eagles are 9-0, 7-0 in Area 4 of Class 7A, and they’re ranked No. 1 in the AJC rankings. USA Lacrosse Magazine has them at No. 2 in its South regional rankings.

So far, the Eagles, which have won every GHSA lacrosse championship except two, continue to dominate. They’re in line for a seventh straight state title, 17th overall, and so far this season they have three wins over top 10 teams. They beat No. 3 South Forsyth 16-1, No. 9 West Forsyth 14-5, and 5A-6A’s No. 10 Lassiter 12-10. The Lassiter win is the only game in which they didn’t win by at least eight.

The Eagles are entering a critical stretch in the regular season, beginning with their annual Legacy Cup, where they’ll host Maryland’s Good Counsel, North Carolina’s Cardinal Gibbons and Texas’ Hockaday, from Thursday to Saturday. All three opponents are ranked regionally in USA Lacrosse Magazine’s regional top 10 rankings. Next is a game against 5A-6A’s No. 8 Pope on March 27, and then the Eagles make their annual trip to Virginia, where they’ll play host Saint Stephens-St. Agnes, and Paul VI, on April 6.

Eagles coach Tim Godby, in his 20th season, wants to see more consistency from the team moving forward.

“We’re looking for continued improvement to take our game to another level,” Godby said. “We’re winning games, but we’re not pleased with how we’re playing all the time. We’ve been inconsistent, in part because we’re a fairly young team, with one returning senior who played, and one senior starter. We’ll have one good quarter, then one bad quarter, so we’re trying to string things together and have the girls understand better decision making with the ball, better shot selection, communicating better. We’re looking for someone to be more vocal. That’s part of having a new team, but we’re at the midseason point, so things need to improve for us to make a postseason run.”

The Eagles return six starters from last year’s 20-2 team. They are junior attacks Anna Mellinger and Ella Pauley, defenders Molly Wade, a senior, and sophomore Ava Thompson, and junior goaltender Gabby Henry.

Henry is committed to Arizona State and is one of seven juniors committed to play at the next level.

“They have experience at each position, and they’re who we’re building the team around, with the new girls,” Godby said. “We’re developing those players into the mix, and that’s where we’re at.”

Junior midfielder Alyssa Monje and freshman attack Lillian Katula are two whom Godby characterizes as developing players, but they’re more than role players. Godby called Monje and impact player and good scorer, and Katula leads the team with 27 goals scored.

The Eagles are led in assists by junior attackers Peyton Baker (14) and Morgan Youngblood (13), both of whom are first-year starters. Aside from Katula, the scoring is spread evenly across the team.

“Thing biggest thing for us is, we don’t have one or two go-to girls that we build our offense around,” Godby said. “We’ve got seven double-digit goal scorers, and that’s kind of how we always try to build our team offensively. We like to spread out the attack so that it’s coming from everywhere on the field. That makes us hard for other teams to defend, and that’s how our success has gone.”

The Eagles have reached the state championship game every season it has existed, but there doesn’t appear to be any big secret Godby has to keep his team focused and hungry.

“The girls are pretty self-motivated,” he said. “It’s part of the culture of our program. They want to win, and they don’t want to be the class that doesn’t get (to the championship game). We have (alum) in playing in college, continuing to improve their game. It’s something we constantly talk about. The weather is getting nice, it’s spring time and we’ve got to stay focused, because there’s graduation, graduation parties and other distractions.

“We want them to continue to be successful and win, so we send out constant reminders, that with these good teams from out of state that we’re playing, and the trips we go on, all that is to help them stay focused and improve, and that is what has been so key for us.”