Tag Archives: girls lacrosse

Arizona girls lacrosse pioneer Jessica Livingston on cover of Lacrosse Magazine

Chaparral girls lacrosse coach Jessica Livingston is featured in this month’s issue of Lacrosse Magazine as one of the “10 people changing youth lacrosse now.” The magazine cites Livingston for creating AZ Girls Lacrosse, a K-9 instructional league she started with only five girls in 2004 and has since taught lacrosse to about 1,000 girls in the Valley.  Livingston also started a post-collegiate team, the Arizona Storm, for which she still plays, and since 2002 has been the head coach of the Chaparral Firebirds, the current two-time defending Arizona high school champions.

In 2010, US Lacrosse recognized Livingston with its Excellence in Growing the Game award, which is given to an individual who supports the US Lacrosse mission and vision to develop lacrosse in a particular geographic area.

“I’m beyond shocked, honored, you name it,” said Livingston on Tuesday when January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, which also features a two page photo of her inside the issue, came out.

While the national attention is flattering, Livingston was far more focused on Tuesday on the first day of practice of the high school season.  Chaparral returns only seven players from last year’s state title team, having lost 14 players to graduation and two players to moving out of state.  “The first day of practice is always a great day!” said Livingston as she pulled lacrosse sticks, balls, field cones and mouth guards from out of the back of her truck parked alongside the road next to the practice field at Mountain View Park in Scottsdale.  “What could be better than the first day of practice?”

This Saturday morning, January 7, Livingston will also be starting a new six-week session of her Desert StiX lacrosse program for girls in grades K-9.  All sessions will take place at Cochise Elementary School, Mountain View Park, 9451 N. 84th St. in Scottsdale.  To register for the Desert StiX program, click here.


Early bird registration for Desert StiX program through Dec 31

The Desert StiX girls lacrosse program starts a new six-week session on Saturday, Jan. 7 for girls in grades K-9, beginner to advanced, who may be interested in learning and playing the “fastest game on feet.”  All sessions will take place at Cochise Elementary School, Mountain View Park, 9451 N. 84th St. in Scottsdale.

Each session entails drills, scrimmages, and fun learning games. The purpose of Desert StiX is to prepare girls with the fundamental skills they need to advance in the sport of lacrosse. Girls are frequently divided by skill levels to help them grow and advance over time.

Early Bird registration fees, in effect through this Saturday, Dec. 31, are as follows for each age group:

Pixi StiX (grades K-2): $85 for one Saturday session each week.

Junior StiX (grades 3-5): $145 for two sessions each week, including Saturdays.

Chop StiX (grades 6-9): $165 for two sessions each week, including Saturdays.

After Dec. 31, registration prices will increase $25 for each group.

To take advantage of the Early Bird registration fees, register here.

The joy of the first time

Kenzie Williams, a first grader from Gilbert, learns how to cradle a ball at last Saturday's free AGLA lacrosse clinic in Scottsdale. Photo by Steve O'Day

“I love seeing someone pick up a lacrosse stick for the first time and love playing. It never gets old for me.” — Jessica Livingston of AZ Girls Lacrosse, a league for girls in grades K-9.

The above photo was taken at last Saturday’s free AGLA clinic at Copper Ridge School in North Scottsdale, which was attended by about 50 girls.  The next clinic will be on December 17 at a yet to be determined location.

Arizona team finishes third in its divison at national girls lacrosse tournament

The Southwest Region team at the Women's Division National Tournament in Stony Brook, N.Y. this past weekend.

An Arizona all star girls lacrosse team finished third in its division this past weekend at the Women’s Division National Tournament at Stony Brook, N.Y.   The team of 20 girls from nine local high school teams comprised the Southwest Region team and finished third out of 10 teams in the Iroquois division, with wins over Missouri and Orlando/Gulf Coast on Saturday and an 18-5 shellacking of Oregon in the third palace game on Sunday.  The Arizonans lost their early morning games on Saturday and Sunday to New Hampshire/Vermont and Georgia, respectively.

“We had rocky morning games both Saturday and Sunday, but we pulled through and came out third in our division,” said Southwest Region head coach Bean Callen, who also coaches at Xavier College Prep. “The girls clicked extremely well, having played together just twice before coming to Long Island for the WDNT tournament. After our first loss to New Hampshire/Vermont, the team really came together and the chemistry prevailed. They made one another look good on the field and the camaraderie among each and every player was amazing. Crisp passes, beautiful goals and strong defense were seen on the field. And lots of laughter encompassed not just the players, but the coaches and parent chaperones as well!”

In addition to playing five games against some of the country’s best talent, the Arizona girls were able attend both NCAA Final Four lacrosse games on Friday featuring Maryland vs. Duke and North Carolina vs. Northwestern. On Saturday, they watched the U19 USA team beat Canada 21-7.

The Arizona team was one of 60 teams from 30 states that took part in the WDNT tournament, which is the oldest girls lacrosse tournament in the country, dating back to 1933.  This year’s tournament featured more than 1,200 of the top high school girls lacrosse players in the country.   – Dan Barr

Chaparral girls win state lacrosse title

The state champion Chaparral Firebirds.

The Chaparral Firebirds won their second straight state lacrosse championship Friday night, prevailing 14-13 in overtime over the previously top-ranked Horizon Huskies. For the girls who played and the overflow crowd at the Reach 11 sports complex who watched, it was a game they will vividly remember the rest of their lives.

While one would expect a great game between the state’s highest scoring teams that featured six of the top seven goal scorers in Arizona, what  transpired exceeded those expectations. It was simply a game where every ground ball, every pass and indeed every square foot of the field was contested by both teams. After Horizon opened the scoring in the first minute, the score was tied eight times over the course of the game.

The most dominant player on the field during the first half was Horizon midfielder Madison Kinzley, who won nine of the first 10 draws of the game.  Horizon also featured a stifling defense and explosive transition game. With the score 5-5, Chaparral scored two goals in the last 19 seconds of the first half. The second goal came after Chaparral senior Alexa Sarussi won the draw and subsequently picked up a loose ball in front of the Horizon goal and scored with six seconds left in the half. It would be the first of two last-second goals for Sarussi during the evening.

Chaparral captains Alexa Sarussi (l) and Makenna Pohle (r) with head coach Jessica Livingston and the state title trophy.

The second half opened with Chaparral scoring two goals in the first minute and 19 seconds, which meant that going back to the end of the first half, Chaparral had scored four goals in only a minute and 38 seconds. Most teams would have folded after getting such a swift four-goal punch to the mouth, but Horizon was not fazed. Indeed, over the next 11 minutes, Horizon answered with five straight goals to take a 10-9 lead. Chaparral’s Makenna Pohle responded with a goal only 10 seconds later to tie the game at 10 all.

With 12 minutes remaining in the second half and the game now tied, the contest transformed into something beyond a lacrosse game. Skill, speed, strength and strategy would no longer be enough for either team to win. The game had simply become a contest of the collective wills of each team, with neither team backing down an inch.

Chaparral scored the next two goals to take a 12-10 lead with 2:26 left. Again, a lesser team may have folded at that point, but Horizon kept coming and with 40 seconds left tied the game at 12-12.

At this point, many of the 400 or so fans were on their feet, pressed against the sidelines, excitedly shouting support for their teams and waiting to run onto the field the moment the game ended. It was everything a state championship game should be. As Horizon won possession of the ball for the game’s final seconds and looked for the winning goal, the crowd was transfixed.

Chaparral Goalie Katherine Marhnes, "K4," after the game.

With seven seconds left,  Horizon’s Maddie Chapman, the state’s leading goal scorer, suddenly broke free with the ball in front of Chaparral’s goal and had a point blank shot from no more than 10 feet away. The only person standing in Chapman’s way was Chaparral’s 4′ 11″ senior goalie, Katherine Marhnes. Known as “K4″ to her teammates, because she was one of four Katherines on the team last year, Marhnes had never played lacrosse until last year, when the Chaparral JV team did not have a goalie and she decided to give it a try.

Now in a split second, with the state title on the line and the state’s most menacing scorer all alone in front of her, Marhnes stopped what appeared to be a certain goal and put the game into overtime.

In the overtime, which consists of two three-minute periods, followed by sudden death if necessary, Horizon scored first and Chaparral sophomore Scarlett Sulliman answered with a goal 13 seconds later to tie the score. Then, with only 16.6 seconds left in the second overtime period, Chaparral co-captain Alexa Sarussi scored the game winner on a penalty shot.

It would be cruel and unfair to say that Horizon lost the game. An extraordinarily talented and disciplined team, Horizon gave everything they had to give and were simply behind when time ran out. For both teams, the scoreboard simply did not reflect the character, poise and determination they displayed throughout the game. — Dan Barr

The sign and smiles say it all.

Coming together as a team

In the minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s state high school semifinal girls lacrosse game, the Chaparral Firebirds circled around their coach to hear some final words of strategy and encouragement. After head coach Jessica Livingston said a few words, the Firebirds held their sticks above their heads as team captains Makenna Pohle and Alexa Sarussi led them in a traditional pregame cheer, “Red Hot,” by yelling out the following question:

Chaparral Captains Makenna Pohle (l) and Alexa Sarussi (r) lead their team in the cheer "Red Hot."

“Our team is what?”

The rest of the team responds – “RED HOT!”

Our team is what? RED HOT!

Then all the players shout in unison, without seeming to inhale: “Our team is R-E-D RED H-O-T HOT. Once we start, we can’t be stopped! All right!”

After a split-second pause, Pohle and Sarussi then yell to their red-and-black-uniformed teammates, “When I say Red, you say Black!

“Red!” “Black!”

“Red!” “Black!”

“When I say Fire, you say Birds!”

“Fire!” “Birds!”

“Fire!” “Birds!”

The team then concludes in unison, “Goooooo Firebirds!” before breaking the circle and trotting onto the field to start the game.

“‘Red Hot’ is our ultimate pump-up cheer,” says Livingston. “We use this cheer before we go out on the field.  It brings us together as a team, unites us as one, and gets us focused and pumped before we take the field. Our captains lead the cheer with pride, and in essence their leading the cheer symbolizes their contribution of leading our team all year.  We’ve been doing this cheer for quite some time and the longevity of the cheer shows its importance to the team because it’s not just a cheer, it’s a Chaparral tradition.”

The Xavier College Prep Gators have their own pregame cheer, charmingly titled, “Blood and Pain.” Like the Chaparral cheer, the Xavier cheer starts with two players posing a question to the rest of the team, which is huddled around them.

“Who’s gonna bring that blood and pain?”

What????

“I said…Who’s gonna bring that blood and pain?

GATORS!  Ahhhh, OOOH!”

Xavier's Arden Anderson seeks to score against Horizon in an April 30 game.

 

So what do these cheers accomplish?

“Xavier’s pregame cheer, ‘Blood and Pain’ serves several purposes,” says coach Caitlin Bebout. “First and foremost, it unites the girls. They all come together in a close huddle with their arms wrapped behind their teammates’ backs. This signifies how they will work together as a team from the very start of the game. Next, the cheer gets them pumped up for the game. Taken partially from the Phoenix Suns’ pregame warm-up, their huddle starts to sway back and forth as they build up their energy. I’m sure on some level, it’s also used to intimidate their competition, but the ultimate goal of this pregame cheer is to unite the players and get them excited for the game.”

Pregame cheers are not just for girls.  Perhaps the world’s most famous pregame cheer is done by New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks.  Since 1888, the All Blacks have performed a traditional Maori ceremonial dance called the “Haka” before every game. Until six years ago, the All Blacks did the Ka Mate, which was composed by a Maori chief in the early 1800s.

In 2005, a new Haka, the Kapa O Pango, was written for the All Blacks.  The composer of the new Haka, Derek Lardelli, has said that its purpose is “about building spiritual, physical and intellectual capacity prior to doing something very important.” Lardelli added, “It’s about building the person’s confidence inwardly, their spiritual side, and then making that spiritual side connect through the soul and coming out through the eyes and the gestures and the hands. So it’s a preparation of your physical side as well as your spiritual side.”

Nor are male pregame cheers confined to New Zealand. Locally, the Mesa High School football team does their own haka before each game.

So how effective was “Red Hot” for the Firebirds in Tuesday’s semifinal game? Pretty effective, it seems.  After leading her teammates in the cheer, Makenna Pohle scored the first of her five goals of the evening less than a minute into the game and helped lead the Firebirds to a 20-13 victory over Pinnacle High School.

After the Firebirds lined up to shake hands with the Pinnacle players, they walked to the center of the field, laid down their sticks, put their arms around each other and formed a circle, swaying back and forth to do their postgame cheer, which starts in a whisper.

“C-H-S

A little bit louder now

C-H-S

I still can’t hear you…

C-H-S

What, what?

L-A-X

A little bit louder now

L-A-X

I still can’t hear you…

L-A-X

What, what?”

So with the game over, what is the purpose of a postgame cheer? Coach Livingston explains.

“This brings us together as a team at the end,” Livingston says. “We either win or lose as a team and not as individuals. Coming together as one at the end of the game reminds us of this. No matter how great or how frustrating the game may have been, we have shared the emotion together. It’s really not even about winning or losing, instead it’s about being a family. We leave it all on the field and since we are in a circle for this cheer, we can look into each other’s eyes and it brings us back to what’s most important — each other.”

Makenna Pohle, Alexa Sarussi and the other Chaparral seniors will do “Red Hot” one last time this Friday night, when they face the Horizon Huskies for the state title at 8 p.m. on Field 16 at the Reach 11 Sports Complex, 2425 East Deer Valley Rd., in Phoenix.  It will be a rematch of last year’s state title game, which Chaparral won 21-4.  This year, however, Horizon, which easily prevailed over Corona del Sol 21-8 in Tuesday’s other semifinal game, enters the championship game as the number one seed, while Chaparral is the ranked second in the state.

While Friday night’s championship game promises to be highly competitive, with its result in doubt until the end, there little doubt that for the seniors, Friday night’s team cheers will carry a little extra energy and emotion. — Dan Barr

Postscript – On May 13, Chaparral won the state championship in a highly competitive game, defeating Horizon 14-13 in overtime.  To read more about that game, click here.

Girls lacrosse team selected for Women’s Division National Tournament

One of the selections to the WDNT team, Sophie Bucknell of Xavier Prep.

Twenty girls from nine high school lacrosse teams have been named to the Southwest Regional Team that will play in the Women’s Division National Tournament at Stony Brook University in New York during Memorial Day Weekend.  The team, which will play in the Schoolgirls’ Division for grades 9-11, was selected after a full day of tryouts on March 25.  The Women’s Division National Tournament, which began in 1933, is one the oldest and most prestigious women’s lacrosse events in the nation.  The head coach for the WDNT team will be Bean Callen of Xavier Prep.  The assistant coach will be Adrianne Wagner of Phoenix Country Day School.  Of the 20 girls selected, five are from Pinnacle High School, four from Chaparral and three each Corona del Sol and Desert Mountain.

Here are 20 girls names to the 2011 WNDT team:

Vanessa Fernandez, junior, Notre Dame, Attack
Sara Phister, sophomore, Mountain Pointe, Attack
Larissa Breguez, junior, Pinnacle, Midfield
Scarlett Sulliman, sophomore, Chaparral, Midfield
Alex Chamberlain, sophomore, Pinnacle, Attack
Miranda Ross, junior, Corona del Sol, Goalie
Erika Bradley, junior, Horizon, Midfield
Rachelle Mariner, junior, Gilbert, Midfield
Madison Roble, freshman, Pinnacle, Attack
Abby Dierks, junior, Pinnacle, Midfield
Kate Pederson, sophomore, Chaparral, Attack
Kaci Rood, sophomore, Desert Mountain, Midfield
Brittany Brewster, sophomore, Chaparral, Defense
Elise Anaya, junior, Chaparral, Defense
Caitlyn O’Grady, sophomore, Corona del Sol, Attack
Holly Berns, sophomore, Corona del Sol, Midfield
Elena Cuomo, junior, Desert Mountain, Defense
Elizabeth Fishman, junior, Chaparral, Midfield
Sophie Bucknell, junior, Xavier, Attack
Natalie Schellbach, junior, Pinnacle, Midfield

There were four alternates selected as well:

Nadine Bashir, sophomore, Pinnacle, Midfield
Tori Hawk, sophomore, Horizon, Goalie
Jessie Lowy, junior, Chaparral, Midfield
Megan McGuire, sophomore, Corona del Sol, Midfield

Goalie Miranda Ross of Corona del Sol High School.