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PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Pacific Falcons hadn’t played in an event other than friendlies all spring. But that didn’t stop the San Diego-based team from winning the US Lacrosse Under-15 Girls’ West Regional Championship, presented by Champion.
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Pacific beat Desert Heat (Arizona) in the championship game, 10-3, Sunday at Reach 11 Sports Complex. The Falcons did not lose during the regional tournament.
With the regional title, Pacific qualifies for the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship, presented by Champion, in Orlando July 20-22.
Team Altitude (Utah) beat the Desert Divas (Arizona) in the consolation final, 21-13.
Caroline Ricci scored four goals, and Kara Gibson and Samantha Herrick each had two for the Falcons in the championship. The Falcons jumped out to an 8-1 lead, and forced turnovers to prevent the Heat from a second-half comeback.
Spencer Eley, Tori Hawk and Annabelle Reilly each scored for the Heat.
"The Arizona teams came out [Saturday] and were overwhelmed," Pacific coach Joe Brown said. "Today they pulled it together and were much better. It’s a huge testament to the Arizona girls. It’s great to play in the Western U.S. and have competitive games."
Heat goalkeeper Aly Smith made 10 saves. Falcon goalie Zoe Stephenson had six.
Despite being the only team in its age bracket in San Diego, the Falcons were on the same page throughout the weekend.
"I think our team all has a really close connection," Stephenson said. "We work really well on the field. I think you should be friends with all the people on the team, because it makes it so much easier to play with them, and it makes it easier to communicate with everyone."
Stephenson made three saves in the second half to limit Desert Heat’s scoring chances as the Falcons used a wholesale substitution pattern.
"It was a lot of fun," Brown said.
Now it’s on to the nationals, where the West’s best will be tested against some of the East’s traditional powers in the sport.
"We have the evolution out West," Brown said. "It’s just that consistent basis that we’re searching for. We’re catching up. We’re getting better. It’s only a matter of time."
West Regional Championship Notebook
ONE FOR THE THUMB
Zoe Stephenson has done this before, so it was really nothing new. Still for the 13-year-old Pacific Falcons goalkeeper, it would be nice to have full use of both hands.
Stephenson broke her thumb Saturday at the US Lacrosse Under-15 Girls’ West Regional Championships at Reach 11 Sports Complex. It didn’t stop her from playing the rest of the tournament.
Stephenson, of San Diego, got the win in the semifinals and championship as her team went undefeated.
"It wasn’t too bad," Stephenson said. "When you’re playing, you just have to stick through it. Also the adrenaline keeps you going. It just keeps you going."
She was hit on the top of her thumb, where cartilage was shattered on the top and bottom. It accounted for four different breaks. Stephenson broke her same thumb last year. Actually, she’s broken both thumbs.
Desert Heat (Arizona) trailed by four goals to Team Altitude (Utah) in the semifinals Sunday, but came back to win 12-11. Tori Hawk scored the winning goal with seven seconds left to send her Arizona-based team on to the championship.
Annabelle Reilly had four goals and two assists for the Heat. Mara Gronseth scored five goals for Team Altitude.
FIRST TIME’S A CHARM
Logan Hicks has only been playing lacrosse for a month. You wouldn’t have guessed it.
Hicks, a seventh grader for Desert Divas (Arizona), scored five goals and had an assist in the consolation final — a 21-13 loss to Team Altitude.
Altitude’s Hannah Hyatt had eight goals, and Haley Aldeman scored six in the win. Katarina Johnston had five for the Divas.
Desert Divas goalie Kianna Kilgore was busy in the net. Kilgore stopped 12 shots in the consolation final. She made 13 saves in a 9-4 loss to the Pacific Falcons in the semifinals.
TWO TO TANGO
As a program, the Pacific Falcons qualified two teams for the US Lacrosse National Championship in Orlando in July. The Falcons Blue had qualified earlier, and now will be joined by the Falcons White, which won the U15 West Regional.
The Pacific Falcons have two former college players on their coaching staff. Lyndsey Wilcox played at Cal Poly. Erica Mihm played at Penn State.
RECOGNIZING A DIFFERENCE
Stephenson once played for the Utah team, but a lot has changed since she was with them.
"I was really impressed with how well they played," Stephenson said. "Now they’re the best team in Park City."
(Game summary and notebook provided by Jim McCurdy)
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