By Chris Goldberg
LILacrosseNews.com, Posted 7/7/14
Nikki Ortega said that playing for Team Heather Leigh Albert at the annual Vail Lacrosse Shootout was “an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.”
Ortega, a 2015 US Lacrosse All-American attack from Middle Country, was one of five rising seniors that played alongside a Who’s Who of girls’ lacrosse senior standouts that rolled to the Vail Shootout High School championship last week.
Team HLA defeated a talented but overmatched Team 180 2015, 13-3, in Thursday’s title game. In six wins (three playoff games), Team HLA outscored its foes by an amazing 88-8.
Team HLA featured many top players from the East Coast as well as Blake School (MN) senior Lydia Sutton, a USC signee who was named the tournament MVP.
“It was such a great experience, especially playing with the top college recruits,” said Ortega, who is committed to Notre Dame. “I learned so much in the past week – all mental.”
In the title game, goalie Gussie Johns (St. Stephen’s & St Agnes, VA/USC) had nine saves while Ortega, Lindsey Ronbeck (2015, Manhasset, NY/Florida), Shelby Scanlin (Cardinal Gibbons, NC/Maryland), and Emilia Lopez-Ona (Princeton, NJ/Penn) each had two goals for Team HLA.
Also for Team HLA, Sutton (now trying out for Team Canada’s U19 team), Kelly Myers (Georgetown Visitation, DC/Stanford), Julia Glynn (Manhasset/Harvard) Mary Claire Byrne (Holy Vhild, VA/Virginia Tech) and Ellie Majure (2015, St. Stephen’s/Duke) all scored once.
Other team members included Lindsey Ronbeck (2015, Manhasset/Florida), Allison Shields (2015, Notre Dame Prep, MD/Virginia), Maggie Jackson (2015, Georgetown Visitation/Virginia), Olivia Blakeman (St. Edward’s, FL/ Loyola), Daniele Kelly (Rumson-Fair Haven, N.J./Virginia), Madison Crutchfield (St. Paul’s, N.H./Duke), and Olivia Mikkelsen (St. Stephen’s/Notre Dame), Emily Koufakis (Manhasset/Stanford) and Sophie Davidson (St. Stephen’s/Dartmouth).
“These were the nicest girls I ever played with and probably the most skilled,” said Ortega. “We had one practice that lasted an hour and already we were moving the ball so well. In the games, every goal was from a pass, rarely did we have 1v1’s, they were all assisted. It was so beautiful and so much fun playing like that.”
Scanlin, the Player of the Year in North Carolina, agreed with Ortega.
“Before this opportunity with Team HLA, I had never been surrounded by so many girls with such amazing personalities and talent,” she said. “It was incredible to be a part of a group of 17 players that bonded so quickly, and played as if we had been teammates and friends forever.
“Due to everyone’s selfless play and advanced skill level the ball moved effortlessly from girl to girl; each play ending with a well deserved goal. However, the best part of playing with Team HLA, was a hearing a younger player, whose team we had just beaten by 10 goals, say ‘that was the coolest thing ever.’
“Although lacrosse is growing in North Carolina, the overall success of the sport is nowhere near that of Virginia or Maryland. So when I was given the opportunity, on Team HLA, to play with girls from these outstanding programs I soaked up anything new that I could learn. Yet, beyond this, I cannot wait to play against the 17 new friends that I made on Team HLA in college. It will be great to show up to a game, and recognize a face or two on the other team.”
Ortega and Scalin did admit that playing in the high altitude of Colorado was difficult at first.
“Playing in this altitude really opened my eyes,” she said. “It was so much harder to breathe when playing and you had to get past it.”
“In order to prepare for the Colorado altitude, I drank what felt like gallons and gallons of water,” added Scanlin. “Our first practice was a little rough for everyone; following the warm-up lap each girl was sucking wind. However, after each game, I became more adjusted to the elevation and breathing became much easier. I think after a while, we all stopped focusing on the altitude adjustment, and started becoming more aware of the amazing environment we were playing in.”
Ortega – who will represent Long Island next weekend at the Under Armour Underclassmen Games and later this month will try out for the US U-19 team at Stevenson University – also enjoyed the fruits of Vail.
“It was so beautiful, we went white water rafting and got see all the scenery,” she said. “We went zip lining right over a river and it was incredibly beautiful. We bonded so well. We had so many activities. It was really fun.”
Scanlin said she can take lessons learned with her to college.
“Because each girl on Team HLA is going to play at a high-ranked D1 college program, I felt that I was already playing on a college team,” she said. “It was a great warm-up/taste of what is to come in the next month or so.
“I think all of the incoming freshman, definitely including myself, are all a little nervous for this new college lacrosse experience; however, getting to know and play with each other released a little anxiety because we understand that we are all going through it together. Most importantly, this week in Vail with Team HLA made me even more excited to start playing this fall at Maryland, and to begin this new college lacrosse experience.”
Team 180 lost only to Team HLA and was led by all-tournament picks Kelli Warmouth (Rampart, CO) and Kendra Lanuza (Chatfield, CO/Denver).
Tags: Middle Country