In a county replete with massive youth sports organizations such as Crofton, GORC, BAYS and of course the Green Hornets, the player pools are deep and the teams are strong in every sport.
Competition is thus always fierce, but that hasn’t stopped the St. John the Evangelist’s girls lacrosse program from finding traction in recent seasons.
The small Severna Park school of only 440 total students in preschool through eighth grade forms its teams by grade level and inserts them into competition through Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, often against teams formed through tryouts of dozens or even hundreds of girls.
This season, two notable teams stood out. The St. John’s sixth graders competed in the Middie A division, compiled a 5-3-1 record and made the playoff semifinals, while the St. John’s fifth-grade girls went 4-4-2 and made the playoffs in the Middie B division.
John Brill, who coached the St. John’s sixth-grade team of Adriana Rosencranz, Allison Vigne, Ava Sprinkel, Bella Saviano, Bridget Donovan, Brooke Poremski, Cameron White, Cameron Brill, Clare Russel, Georgia Elis, Grace Wiegand, Isabella Vitale, Julia Clifford, Laila Ivey, Lauren Niccolini, Lindsey Slifer, McKenna Fickenger, Meredith DePole, Peyton Guinter and Zoe Burke in the super competitive Middie A division, said he’s been impressed by how the girls have improved over the years to the point where they contend legitimately with the Green Hornets and BAYS and Crofton.
“We’re competing against other programs that have a lot more girls, whereas we just basically take our sixth-grade class and form a team,” said Brill, who coached the team with Beth Niccolini and Bridget Elis. “I’ve been coaching these girls since they were in first grade, so they’ve been playing together for years, and they’ve developed into one of the strongest teams in the county.”
Coach John Kane has his fifth-grade St. John’s team on a similar track. His team of Annalisa Corbi, Avery Slate, Caitlyn White, Elizabeth Kane, Emily Hartman, Emma Dean, Gracie Burke, Ingrid Vance, Katelyn Chino, Lilly Hughes, Macy Carpenter, Maggie Kelly, Meghan Campbell, Olivia Borum, Olivia Mian and Siena Landerkin played in the similarly competitive Middie B division, also against the larger organizations and often against teams composed of fifth- and sixth-graders, instead of just fifth-graders.
“It was really fun watching them play at an advanced level and get better with each game,” said Kane, who coached the team with Harley Carpenter. “They were a very coachable group that got better through the season. They would always respond to a coaching point we would emphasize.”
Kane cited a late-season victory over second-place CYLA as a turning point for the girls. The game was a must-win for St. John’s to make the playoffs, and after the coaches repeatedly preached the importance of defense, the girls spontaneously began chanting DE-FENSE in the huddle. They held CYLA in check and pulled out a 9-5 win.
“That same game we watched them move the ball up the field in transition really, playing team offense as well,” said Kane. “We realized that these kids are really starting to get it and come of age. We are very proud of their accomplishments and their growth through the season.”
St. John’s’ steady march of competitive teams figures to continue for the foreseeable future, as Kane’s third-grade girls also had a strong season of learning and development in the county’s PeeWee division (in which scores and records are not kept and the emphasis is on learning the game and having fun). The third-grade team of Addison Carey, Avery Saviano, Caroline Brill, Clare Donovan, Ella Stephan, Emerson Sprinkel, Emily Hansbrough, Emma Hurd, Gabby Davies, Katherine McDaniel, Kathleen Kane, Lila Rosencranz, Madeline Lancione, Sofia Assaro, and Sofia Carannante built on its expanding foundation of lacrosse know-how.
“The St. John’s girls were competitive and able to showcase all they practiced,” said Kane, who coached the team with Ann Stephan and Carla Saviano. “The girls are very coachable. Whenever a weakness was shown in a game, whether on ground balls or on defense, they would respond to direction by the coaching team and improve in that particular area. What we are most proud of is that they are very generous with one another in passing the ball. They call each other’s names out, and they are looking for assists.”
Kane said much of the group plays field hockey together in the fall, and that they’re forming bonds that will carry them to ongoing success.
“They are a fun bunch of girls to be around, and they all get along well.”