The Southeast region boasts two national powers in Milton (Ga.) and Vero Beach (Fla.). They will help shape the POWERADE FAB 50 this season.
North Carolina appears to be wide open this season with defending champion Apex (N.C.) replacing much of its starting lineup and head coach.
Every week on Tuesday ESPNHS will release a new girls' high school lacrosse region preview, culminating with the release of our State Rankings on March 5 and POWERADE FAB 50 rankings on March 6.
The Starting Lineup
(Position: athlete, year, high schoo, city, state, college commitment)
G: Katie Kastner, Sr., Flagler Palm Coast (Palm Coast, Fla.), Jacksonville
D: Maggie Auslander, Jr., Green Hope (Cary, N.C.), North Carolina
D: Olivia Long, Sr., Vero Beach (Fla.), Johns Hopkins
D: Nicole Lescano, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), San Diego State
M: Gracee Hendrix, Sr., Vero Beach (Fla.), Virginia Tech
M: Maddy Blakeman, Sr., St. Edwards ( Fla.), Loyola
M: Heather Harman, Sr., Milton (Ga.), Penn State
M: Sydney Holman, Jr., East Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, N.C.), North Carolina
M: Lane Huger, Jr., Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.)
A: Annie Ruland, Jr., Milton (Ga.), USC
A: Kristina Coppolino, Sr., Winter Springs (Fla.), UMBC
A: Mackenzie Smith, Sr., Vero Beach ( Fla.), Vanderbilt
Sizing Up The Region
Florida: Lake Brantley (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) returns eight starters from the team that reached the state semifinals last season. The offense should be strong this season with senior Angelica Perdomo (Rollins College commit), junior Elizabeth Olvey and sophomore midfielders Brenna Pinneke and Grace Gabrovic. Martin County (Stuart, Fla.) returns 11 starters from last year's 13-6 team. Marissa Braden and Allison Windsor (Babson commit) return to the midfield. Last year the duo combined to score 112 goals. Ponte Vedra (Fla.) returns nine starters from last year's 15-3 team. The team boasts a strong goalie in Stetson commit Whitney Meyers. Vero Beach (Fla.) has the longest active winning streak in the nation at 60 games. The Indians return 10 starters that include five players that earned First Team All-Area honors from TCPalm.com last season. Johns Hopkins commit Olivia Long returns on defense and Caitlyn Miller returns in goal after posting a .610 save percentage last season. Lucy Sexton and Mackenzie Smith return after scoring 42 and 45 goals respectively. Winter Springs (Fla.) boasts three D-I commits, including UMBC commit Kristina Coppolino. Winter Springs returns a strong core group from last year's state finalist team and will play a tough out-of-state schedule that includes Hockaday (Dallas, Texas).
Georgia: Milton (Milton, Ga.) finished No. 13 in the POWERADE FAB 50 last season and won the Georgia Class 5A championship. On top of that, 12 starters are returning. Junior Lydia Cassada led the team with 92 goals, junior Annie Ruland, a USC commit, led the team in assists and points last season. 10 of the Eagles 18 games this season are against out-of-state opponents. Overall, five players from the Eagles are committed to play Division I lacrosse. Westminster (Atlanta) won the Georgia Class 4A state championship last season and returns four starters, including leading scorer Eve Knapp who scored 73 goals and was named First Team all-state.
North Carolina: Apex (N.C.) is riding a 20-game winning streak, but graduated six starting seniors. Sarah Fellows and Andrea Spaulding take over as co-head coaches this season. Senior Marybeth Burriss will lead the defense along with juniors Jessi DeLuca and Taylor Grant. Bishop McGuinness (Kernersville, N.C.) may only be in its second year as a program, but the team finished 14-3 last season and returns seven starters. Sophomore Megan Shortt returns after scoring 122 goals and totaling 37 assists last season. Charlotte Catholic (Charlotte, N.C.) returns four starters, including attacker Megan Patterson, a Winthrop commit. Charlotte Country Day (Charlotte, N.C.) is the defending NCISAA champion. Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) reached the sectional round of the playoffs last season and returns a strong offense with seven starters back. North Carolina commit Maggie Auslander highlights the group. The Falcons play defending state champion Apex twice this season. Hoggard (Wilmington, N.C.) lost two games last year by a combined three goals, but graduated the Wilmington Star News Player of the Year Sarah McCullough who led the team in every statistical category. The Vikings returns three players who earned Wilmington Star News All-Area First Team honors last season: junior defender Kenzie Schmidt along with senior Caitlyn Smith who led the team with 58 goals and Ali Valinski (35 goals, 21 assists).
Tennessee: Girls Preparatory School (Chattanooga, Tenn.) returns senior midfielders Mary Copler and Megan Mastey from last year's 4-7 squad. Harpeth Hall (Nashville, Tenn.) returns six starters from the state runners-up. The defense should be strong with senior defender Leah Caplan and the return of three-year starting goalie Randolph McKenzie. Hutchison (Memphis, Tenn.) returns 10 starters and graduated just four seniors from the team that won the state championship last season. Starting goalie Elizabeth Jones along with defenders Bridget Boyer and Lawrence Jones return. Hutchison is riding a 19-game winning streak to start the season and will be tested early with a March 23 game against St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Alexandria, Va.).
Underclassemen To Watch
(Position: athlete, year, high school, state, college commitment)
Attack: Lydia Cassada, Jr., Milton (Ga.): Liz Curtis, Soph., Harpeth Hall (Tenn.); Chloe Duke, Soph., Hutchison (Tenn.); Beth Fellows, Jr., Apex (N.C.); Molly Garrigan, Jr., Milton (Ga.); Loring Gearhardt, Soph, Hutchison (Tenn.); Alyssa Herzog, Jr., Hutchison (Tenn.); Elizabeth Olvey, Jr., Lake Brantley (Fla.): Annie Ruland, Jr., Milton (Ga.), USC.
Midfield: Grace Gabrovic, Soph., Lake Brantley (Fla.); Merryl McCurry, Soph., Westminster (Ga.); Allison Modica, Jr., Vero Beach (Fla.); Brenna Pinneke, Soph., Lake Brantley (Fla.); Megan Shortt, Soph., Bishop McGuinness (N.C.); Sandy Smith, Soph., Hutchison (Tenn.); Ansley Walker, Jr., Westminster (Ga.).
Defense: Bridget Boyer, Jr., Hutchison (Tenn.); Madison Hendren, Soph., Lake Brantley (Fla.); Kenzie Schmidt, Jr., Hoggard (N.C.).
Goalie: Sierra Armstrong, Jr., Wando (Mt. Pleasant, S.C.); Hannah Ricci, Jr., Winter Park (Fla.).
Games To Watch
March 21: Vero Beach (Fla.) vs. McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.)
March 31: Milton (Ga.) vs. Vero Beach (Fla.) at AmLax Challenge
April 2: Milton (Ga.) vs. Archbishop Carroll (Pa.) at AmLax Challenge
April 27: Milton (Ga.) at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.)
How This Region Affects The FAB 50
Milton (Ga.) and Vero Beach (Fla.) are considered the powers in the Southeast Region and will have their chance to make national noise this season when they play teams expected to start the season in the Top 5 of the POWERADE FAB 50.