Lacrosse: 12 remaining coaches talk keys to championship games

5 teams aim for 1st title, 4 can repeat
The women's lacrosse Class A-AAAA championship trophy is shown before the McIntosh vs Westminster game at McIntosh High School Saturday afternoon in Peachtree City, Ga., May 19, 2012.



The women's lacrosse Class A-AAAA championship trophy is shown before the McIntosh vs Westminster game at McIntosh High School Saturday afternoon in Peachtree City, Ga., May 19, 2012.

We are at the end of the season, with the championships taking place Thursday through Saturday at Denmark. Milton’s girls can win its seventh title in a row and a GHSA record 17th overall, and Blessed Trinity’s girls are shooting for a fourth consecutive title, seventh overall. Roswell’s and Westminster’s boys teams can win back-to-back titles, with Roswell going for its fourth overall after back-to-back championships a decade ago. Westminster can win its eighth title, most among GHSA boys programs.

Buford’s boys, Cambridge’s girls, Wesleyan’s boys, Wesleyan’s girls and West Forsyth’s girls are all aiming for the first championship in program history.

There are also teams looking to add to their existing championship trophy collection. Lambert’s boys can win its third title in four seasons and fifth overall since 2016. Westminster’s girls can win its fourth overall title, and first since winning three in a row from 2010-12. Centennial’s boys are looking for its second title, the other coming in 2013.

Also of note, the Class A-4A boys and girls championships are the same matchup of Wesleyan vs. Westminster.

Ahead of the championship games, the AJC asked all 12 remaining coaches what the keys to their game are, and below are their responses.

7A boys: Buford Wolves (20-1; Area 4, No. 2 seed) vs. Lambert Longhorns (19-2; Area 4, No. 1), 7 p.m. Friday

Tyler Botts, Buford: “Our keys to winning are very simple. Win the possession battle. If we can control the faceoff, that gives our offense more chances to score and we can dictate the pace a little better. We need to buckle down on defense and clear the ball efficiently when we get stops. They’re a great team with a lot of talent, so if we make mistakes, they’re going to capitalize on them. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen. We need to be level headed and make great decisions on both ends of the field.”

John Spaide, Lambert: “We return many players that played in last year’s state championship game, so there is motivation from losing last year’s game. We need to play our game and not try to do anything not within ourselves. We have to understand that Buford is not the same team that we played in March (Lambert won 15-13 on March 22). Buford has great shooters, and we need to slow down their transition game. We need to play smart, limit turnovers and stay in control all four quarters.”

7A girls: West Forsyth Wolverines (16-4; Area 4, No. 2) vs. Milton Eagles (17-4; Area 4, No. 1), 5 p.m. Friday

John Keifer, West Forsyth: “We have a lot of respect for Milton. They are a well run program with elite talent. To beat them, you have to play a near perfect game. You can’t turn the ball over. They are relentless on the ride. They have a good goalie, so we will have to move her eyes. We have to win draws and possess the ball. We can’t get into a track meet. We will need to play the way we’ve been playing the last month-and-a-half of the season. Fast and physical. Relentless defense and patience on offense. Hopefully, we can show up and slay the dragon.”

Tim Godby, Milton: “The keys for us are to play great defense, work together as a team, be patient on offense, make sure we take care of the ball, and have good shot selection.”

5A-6A boys: Centennial Knights (12-10; Area 5, No. 3) vs. Roswell Hornets (20-2; Area 5, No .1), 4 p.m. Saturday

Liam Byrnes, Centennial: “We’re excited. This senior group played in the state championship game in 2021, when we played Lambert, so we have been leaning on that veteran group a lot. The keys for us will be to try and make it a six-vs.-six game as much as possible, stay out of the penalty box and do the simple things really well. Games like this usually come down to a few little things, such as two hands on a ground ball, clearing the ball, and hitting your shots when your time comes.”

Bryan Wallace, Roswell: “We need to win in all three phases of the game. That starts at faceoff with all-state players Blake O’Neal and Kyle O’Neal creating offense and possession of the ball. Solid goalie play from our two senior all-state goalies. Lock down defense and minimize the two-man game from Centennial. Offensively, we need to play unselfish and be consistent for 48 minutes. We need to control tempo and stay out of the penalty box. We need to play Roswell lacrosse, trust our game plan and live in moment.”

5A-6A girls: Blessed Trinity Titans (18-1; Area 5, No. 2) vs. Cambridge Bears vs. (17-4; Area 5, No. 1), 2 p.m. Saturday

Christy Sheahan, Blessed Trinity: “Cambridge is an excellent team with very talented players and an excellent coach. As far as keys, we want to win the draw the majority of the time. Draw control is crucial, and we have an excellent draw taker, Morgan Handzel, and also several girls who are wonderful on the circle helping to gain draw control, including Clark Hamilton and Hannah Daley, among others. We also must take care of the ball when we do have it. We can’t afford to commit careless turnovers against a team like Cambridge. We must also make good shot selections, and we play our best when we move the ball fast and find our open girls. Our defense has played very well all year, but they must continue to, and use their feet. We cannot afford unnecessary penalties that give Cambridge free position shots.”

Pam Masinko, Cambridge: “I believe we need to stay true what has gotten us this far. We are a selfless team that trusts each other. We are led by a group of strong, experienced, veteran upperclassman, and some very good, young talent. I believe the keys to winning will be to lock down defensively, and possess and take care of the ball offensively.”

A-4A boys: Westminster Wildcats (12-8; Area 7, No. 1) vs. Wesleyan Wolves (14-5; Area 2, No. 1), 7 p.m. Thursday

Tony Souza, Westminster: “We have to stop their transition game, and play solid defense, especially on (junior attack Jameson Meyer) and (senior attack Broder Conley). We have to reduce the number of turnovers, compete on faceoffs, work on creating assisted goals, and make them play a full 48 minutes.”

Connor Breslin, Wesleyan: “Our opponent presents a number of challenges we have been preparing for this week. First and foremost is the excellent coaching they have. Tony (Souza) gets the most out of his players every year. We have done a lot of self-scouting to anticipate where the Wildcats may try to exploit us. Additionally, it is crucial that we prepare to see a number of different looks from their offense, as their scheme is quite multiple. Ultimately, however, we are going to rely on what got us here; a roster with tons of depth and experience. You can look for us to share the ball offensively and defend with all seven players working together as a unit. We have a ton of talented players, and if we can just do the little things right on Thursday, then we should put ourselves in a good spot. Our kids are fired up for this exciting opportunity.”

A-4A girls: Westminster Wildcats (12-8; Area 7, No. 1) vs. Wesleyan Wolves (18-1; Area 2, No. 1), 5 p.m. Thursday

Ame Conley, Wesleyan: “The keys to a win are continuing to play our game and focusing on the fundamentals. We need to hustle after every ball, have good transition in the midfield, and not forcing shots on offense. We are a competitive team that never gives up, and we need to keep that mentality throughout the game.”

Katie Trainor, Westminster: “We have been working hard all season to get to this point. The team is focused on playing a full 48 minutes and leaving everything on the field. Our focus all season has been on ourselves and controlling what we can control, and to make the next play. Our players have risen to occasion, challenging each other in practice daily and making each other better players and teammates. The two biggest keys to our success are to play our game, and to have fun playing together one last time.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed coach Ame Conley’s school, and misstated the Wesleyan girls’ record.