Walton sets its sights on mighty Milton
by Carlton D. White
February 23, 2013 12:35 AM | 3246 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The senior core of, from left, Rachele Damico, Annie Poling, Claire Williams, Maddie Weiss and Hannah Ashmore will be looked at to guide Walton this year.
<BR>Staff photo by Emily Barnes
The senior core of, from left, Rachele Damico, Annie Poling, Claire Williams, Maddie Weiss and Hannah Ashmore will be looked at to guide Walton this year.
Staff photo by Emily Barnes
Each of the last two seasons, the final four teams in the Class AAAAA girls lacrosse state playoffs were Walton, Roswell, Alpharetta and Milton — the group battling it out for the right to advance to the championship game.

In 2010, Walton and Milton were once again in the semifinals, joined by Lassiter and Chattahoochee. In fact, Milton has played for the title every year since the Georgia High School Association made girls lacrosse a sanctioned sport in 2005, and the Lady Eagles have won it all every season but one.

Walton has often been in the mix, too, and this season should be no different.

Though the Lady Raiders graduated four players from last year’s 15-5 team, they return eight starters to go along with a few talented newcomers and build a roster that tries to capture a state title much like Walton’s rival from north Fulton County had done.

“Milton doesn’t make mistakes,” Walton coach Mandy Ryan said. “That’s a big reason why they’ve won so many championships. We have to focus on not making those individual errors that a team like Milton takes advantage of.”

Walton is already off to a strong start. The Lady Raiders downed Alpharetta 12-8 in Thursday’s season opener, and they now have their sights set on Mill Creek and Milton next week.

With a schedule littered with so many good playoff-contending teams eligible to reach the postseason — such as St. Pius X, Etowah and Centennial — Walton is out to improve throughout the year on offense and defense.

“Our strength is our defense,” Ryan said. “We have the same four kids — Claire Williams, Lauren Yapp, Laura Jordan and Lizzie Misel — who have been together for three years as a unit, and our goalkeeper, Emily James, is there as our last line of defense.

“Those girls all return to anchor our back line. We also bring back two midfielders and a couple of attackers. Everybody gets along so well, and that has helped with our success.”

Ryan enjoys seeing the camaraderie her team shares. She mentioned their fondness for one another and how that helps to build team chemistry.

“It’s a double-edged sword in a way,” Ryan said. “They know each other so well and they’re very enthusiastic. They like to chit-chat. Off the field, it’s much of the same. They’re like sisters to one another.”

Walton’s starting lineup along the midfield includes Sophia Watkins and Annie Poling, while Maddie Weiss and Meaghan Butler are at the attack.

Williams, a defender, was named the team’s sole captain, while Jordan, another defender, has verbally committed to play lacrosse at Kennesaw State.

Ryan is excited about two of her newcomers in freshmen Carly White and Erin McBride. White scored three goals in the win over Alpharetta, while McBride netted four.

“McBride is a natural goal-scorer and does things that I don’t think I’ve seen before,” Ryan said. “Carly is a workhorse. She’s all over the field. She’s fast, athletic and very scrappy.”

The growing popularity of lacrosse in Georgia has led to change among area teams. Walton and Milton used to be in different areas, but beginning this season, they will both be competing in the new Area 2AAAAAA.

“It’s a very tough area,” Ryan said, “so we’ll be tested, which is a good thing, because that helps us get better.”
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