ORLANDO – Vero Beach beat Winter Springs, 20-3, to win their sixth-consecutive FHSAA Girls Lacrosse State Championship Game in a row.
Samantha MacCurdy scored six goals and Mackenzie Smith scored five to lead the Fighting Indians to their 60th victory in a row, and their 76th in a row against in-state opponents.
Vero Beach was paced 14 unanswered goals in the first half, with nine coming from MacCurdy and Smith. Goal keeper Caitlyn Miller came up with several consecutive saves from point-blank range until she finally gave away to Kris Coppolino on a penalty shot with just 18.9 seconds left in the half.
“It was really just my defense that stepped up – it was a team effort,” Miller said. “This team has worked really hard during the state finals, and that’s what helped me get 13 saves today.”
Winter Springs made some necessary halftime adjustments, and allowed just six second-half goals to the Fighting Indians. That said, they never recovered from the four goals Vero Beach scored in the first 90 seconds. Two goals by MacCurdy and one each by Peirce and Smith set the tone for the rest of the contest.
“We wanted to ‘Shock and Awe,’ as George W. Bush once put it, to start the game,” said Dean. “That’s all we wanted to do, and that has been the story of our team all year long. We made it a point this year to show everyone what we were capable of doing once we got to the playoffs.”
Dean credited his seniors for making this year-and state final-so special with their leadership and intensity in practice. Two-time All-American Courtney Swan (four goals) and All-American Candidate Erin Schroeder (two goals) will graduate winners of four state championship games.
“Our offense was so balanced throughout the whole game,” said Swan. “It is awesome to see everyone else work to create their own shots, and I really enjoyed helping the rest of my team score today.”
Last year’s close 10-9 victory over Lake Brantley was an anti climactic win for Vero Beach in 2010, and it was a game they wanted make a distant memory.
“We were all on an adrenalin rush from the pre-game talk Coach Dean gave us in the locker room, and we came onto the field ready to prove a point,” Schroeder said. “Being our last game, we wanted to all go out with a win. Last year it didn’t feel as good as this year, but waiting a year to feel like this was well-worth it. This game proved we are still the best in Florida.”
MacCurdy closed out her two-year Vero Beach career with perhaps the best game of her high school career. Just two years removed as a transfer from Colorado, the senior emerged as another dangerous weapon in Dean’s offensive arsenal this season.
“It was a huge adjustment transferring here – I didn’t know what to expect,” MacCurdy said. “I remember throwing up for maybe half the practice. Dean runs his practice like the police academy, but it pays off in the end and we all love each other. I’m very excited about the win today, and to be going off to college, but it is bittersweet at the same time.”
Smith, who will likely be Swan’s successor next year in the offense, came out shooting in the first half.
“I came out ready to give it my all, and I stepped it up in the attack zone today,” Smith said. “I knew we only had 50 minutes left to play and our entire team knew we had to leave it all out on the field. I was ready to get some goals on the board. I found my role this year after searching for my identity the first two years.”
With the win, Dean takes home the FHSAA State Championship to Vero Beach for the sixth-straight season. This will only be the fifth such trophy in the school’s trophy case, however, due to FHSAA sanctions which stripped the 2009 team of their state title – months after the season ended – for playing too many out-of-state teams during the season.
“No doubt, from a personal level, 2009 was a tough year,” said Dean “These were young girls and we are all real people – it wears on you. But I think we are all past that now. This is two years removed from all of that, and I think you can really see the difference. As a head coach, I’m the one responsible for getting these players going. It starts with me, and I use things like (our 21st ranking in LAXPower) as motivation. I think we can compete with any team in the country. It’s frustrating and it kinda hurts a little that we will never truly know what the 2010 and 2011 teams were capable of doing out of state. That’s the one part of my career that hurts the most, because those two teams were possibly the two most talented teams I’ve ever had at Vero Beach.”
“All of the titles are great – each one of them is special,” added Dean. “It was like the state championship every day at practice, we beat each other up all year to get to this point. I don’t think people are going to realize what we have done until a couple of years down the road.”