Lacrosse Playoff Preview: New look, success for South Effingham girls; Richmond Hill boys and girls, Benedictine primed for playoff runs

By Nathan Dominitz Special to Prep Sports Report | April 23, 2024

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Eden (Wright) Douglas has witnessed the South Effingham girls lacrosse program’s incremental progress, from an 0-5 start in the abbreviated COVID year of 2020 to one, three and four victories in the next three seasons.

Douglas, who was an assistant coach, took over as head coach this season and the Mustangs made a big leap to 8-5 in the regular season and a berth in the GHSA Class 5A-6A state playoffs.

“They’ve been phenomenal,” Douglas said Monday. “We had a lot of work that had to be done. Looking at how they played, even just last season to this season, they look like an entirely different team.”

South Effingham finished 3-3 in Area 7 to grab the fourth seed ahead of Greenbrier (3-3), which the host Mustangs defeated 10-9 in double overtime on March 22.

SEHS will be one of several Coastal Empire girls and boys lacrosse teams in the postseason this week, traveling to Decatur (11-5, 4-0 Area 6) for a 4:30 p.m. Wednesday game.

It’ll be a long day, with the team bus leaving campus Wednesday morning and not expected to return until close to midnight.

“As far as their head space, I think that they’re ready,” Douglas said. “We’ve got some new things that we are excited to try on Wednesday with them, that people haven’t seen throughout the season. We’ve practiced and they’ve put in the work. I’m excited to see how they do against teams that we’ve never played.

The Mustangs are led on offense by seniors Jaden Burns (34 goals, 13 assists through 10 games), Anna Elliott (27 goals in 10 games) and Bailey Kendziorski (20 goals in nine). Jasmine Aponte is the top goalie and one of several juniors who with the seniors make for a strong starting lineup, Douglas said.

The coach said that coming into the season, the players needed to work together better, particularly on defense, which didn’t apply enough pressure to opposing teams. The offense needed a bigger playbook.

“Since I’ve been able to step into the head coaching role, we’ve been able to do some different things than we’ve done in the past,” Douglas said. “It’s obviously showing out on the field.”

Richmond Hill girls

The Wildcats head into the playoffs coming off a dramatic 15-14 overtime loss on April 18 to Porter-Gaud, a private school with a standout athletics program in Charleston, S.C.

Like several other games on the schedule, it was a raise in the level of competition to get Richmond Hill (9-4-1, 4-2 Area 7) primed for the GHSA Class 1A-5A postseason, which opens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at Greater Atlanta Christian (7-9, 3-1 Area 6).

“It was a true test for them,” said fifth-year head coach Megan McDonough, whose squad has faced Porter-Gaud for three straight seasons, going 1-2.

There also was a lesson to be learned in a short-handed Wildcats squad falling to Area 7 foe Effingham County 7-6 in double overtime on March 28, then topping the Rebels 13-7 in the rematch on April 16.

“You need to make sure that you are prepared every day,” McDonough said she told her players. “A team could win on any given day for any given reason. Nobody’s going to wait for you to get set. Nobody’s going to wait for you to be ready. Nobody’s going to wait for you to get settled. They’re just not going to wait for you.”

The Wildcats are led in scoring by a freshman attacker, Kylen Tucker-Flynn, who has 44 goals and six assists. Junior midfielder Avery Washington has 38 goals, 15 assists along with 26 groundballs and she wins 65 percent of her draws.

Junior attacker Arleah Brown has 17 goals and four assists, while junior midfielder Alannah Bowling has scored 17 goals and wins 57.9 percent of her draws.

On defense, sophomore Jayla Baker has collected 26 groundballs, and senior Alicia Chini has 18.

In preparing for the playoff game at GAC, McDonough said scouting reports can only take a team so far.

“I reminded them we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” she said during practice Monday. “In the first two minutes, you’re going to figure out who their key players are running their offenses or understanding their plays.

“Lacrosse isn’t a sport that’s all about play calling. It’s consistent motion, so you’ve got to be ready to defend anything. We’ve been working on some scenarios, man-down situations, running through our motions. Just a regular day here at practice.”

Other games

Class 1A-4A Area 8 top seed Savannah Christian (1-7) hosts Area 7 No. 2 Holy Innocents’ Episcopal (5-10, 2-1 area) at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 26. Both squads have byes in the first round.

Effingham County (11-4, 4-2 Area 7), a second seed, hosts Area 6 No. 3 Midtown at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 23.

Rebels junior Olivia Morgan has 46 goals and nine assists and 27 groundballs in 13 games, according to Megan Coleman, a junior, has 38 goals and nine assists and 34 groundballs in 12 games, and senior Mackenzie Brown has 17 goals in 11 games.

Senior Faith Strickland is the top goalie with 90 saves, 58 goals allowed and a .608 save percentage.

Richmond Hill boys

Tom Corbin has been the only coach in the Wildcats boys lacrosse program’s history, so listen when he says don’t judge this year’s squad by how it practices.

“This has probably the hardest group that we have to gauge in a long time,” Corbin said. “They’s so loose and laid back. They have such a good time at practice, sometimes it’s hard to get them to focus. But when the game whistle blows, it’s something totally different.

“You can’t really judge by the way we practice sometimes because sometimes we’ve had God-awful practices and come out the next day and beat somebody by 10 goals. Knowing that going in, we try to accommodate some of the goofiness, for lack of a better term.”

Whatever the term, it’s working for Class 5A-6A Richmond Hill (10-5, 5-1 Area 7), the second seed, which hosts third seed Woodward Academy (8-8, 2-2 Area 6) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.

Corbin coached the Wildcats in their first three seasons as a club team (2017-19) and then under the GHSA umbrella. This year’s squad has a core of 12 seniors and about a half-dozen juniors that all contribute.

He called the freshmen class, which primarily fills the junior varsity roster, probably the best to ever come from Richmond Hill Middle School.

“We’re pretty deep all the way around,” Corbin said. “We’ve been able to do a lot of things. We play a pretty fast-paced game because of the athletes we have. We always have really good athletes at Richmond Hill. We can run pretty well with most any team that we play. It’s just sometimes we have an off day shooting, or sometimes the offense isn’t clicking really well.”

Then there was the 6-5 loss on March 15 to Greenbrier, the eventual Area 7 champion at 6-0.

“We probably had four or five bounce off the post in the game that should have gone in (for goals),” Corbin said.

Top performers include junior Mathias Clark (38 goals, 26 assists), senior Josh Auclair (37 goals, seven assists) and his brother Brayden Auclair (26 goals, eight assists, team-high 75 groundballs).

Junior Landon Saffian has 25 takeaways and leads all defenders with 32 groundballs. Senior Adam Cardenas has 19 takeaways and 23 groundballs.

Zach Morea has won 136 of 214 faceoffs (63.6 percent) and has more than 50 groundballs. Junior goalie Jared Bransfield has stopped 69 of 135 shots (51.1 percent).


Cadets coach Dustin White has picked up on a disagreeable bit of trivia based on his research.

No boys lacrosse team from Savannah has ever won a second-round game in the GHSA state playoffs, he said.

White goes back to 2014, his senior year attending Benedictine, when the school joined GHSA for lacrosse, with other local teams to follow.

The Cadets are 13-4, 4-0 in Area 8 to earn a top seed and a bye in the first round. They will start in the second round at home on either Friday or Saturday against the winner of North Cobb Christian and Holy Innocents’ Episcopal.

“Being able to win would be massive, obviously,” White said.

“Savannah-area teams always get matched up with Atlanta teams. It’s pretty safe to say that Atlanta’s a lot better at lacrosse than Savannah right now. That’s no secret. So you end up playing a really good Atlanta team (in the playoffs) and it always ends up being a really rough, tough matchup. For us, I think our team really wants to end that trend.”

White knows his team well, and he’s known some of the seniors since they were fifth-graders coming up through lacrosse programs. He knew the veteran squad could handle a tough schedule with consecutive games against River Ridge, Pace Academy and Hebron Christian early in the season.

“It was all strategic,” White said. “I don’t like coaching undefeated teams. I’d rather get smacked. River Ridge was really good. Being able to see them early was huge.”

River Ridge won 14-9 on Feb. 16, “a little humble pie,” the coach said, after BC opened the season three days earlier with a 21-0 shutout of Islands.

The Cadets would eat a better diet throughout the season led by a core of five seniors who have accounted for about 90 percent of the offense, the coach said: Trey Zanone, Jack Chandler, Calvin Rose, Liam Hogan and Riley Wilson.

Zanone has 50 points including 28 assists and is “seeing the field really, really well,” White said.

Chandler has 25 goals and makes about 50 percent of his shots, “which is bananas because 50 percent is really high,” the coach said.

Rose has 45 goals, while Hogan has 20 assists. Wilson has 40 points and also makes a huge impact in other ways.

“He faces off and stays on the field and plays offense,” White said. “It’s kind of untraditional to do that. You usually have a faceoff guy and he gets off the field. Riley is at 70 percent on the season with faceoffs, which is a huge statistic. That means you win possession 70 percent of the time after every goal and every quarter.”

Wilson also has collected 150 groundballs, with the next-best total 41.

Goalie Connor Desautels and defenseman Walker Groves, who will be the team captain next year, are two of the juniors contributing to the Cadets’ success.

Other games

In other Class 1A-4A contests, Area 8 No. 2 Savannah Country Day (11-7, 3-1) hosts East Forsyth (11-5, 1-2 Area 5) at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 24; and Area 8 No. 3 Calvary Day (7-9, 2-2) hosts Oconee County (8-10, 2-2 Area 2), the No. 1 at-large seed, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Sophomore Titus Gilliam has 45 goals and 10 assists in 16 games for the Cavaliers, according to

GHSA lacrosse playoffs schedule


Class 5A-6A

Area 6 No. 3 Woodward Academy at Area 7 No. 2 Richmond Hill, Wednesday, April 24, 6:30 p.m.

Class 1A-4A

Area 8 No. 1 Benedictine has a bye to the second round on either Friday or Saturday, April 26-27, hosting the winner of North Cobb vs. Holy Innocents’ Episcopal

Area 5 No. 3 East Forsyth at Area 8 No. 2 Savannah Country Day, Wednesday, April 24, 4 p.m.

At large No. 1 Oconee County at Area 8 No. 3 Calvary Day, Wednesday, April 24, 5:30 p.m.


Class 5A-6A

Area 6 No. 3 Midtown at Area 7 No. 2 Effingham County, Tuesday, April 23, 6 p.m.

Area 7 No. 3 Richmond Hill at Area 6 No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian, Tuesday, April 23, 6 p.m.

Area 7 No. 4 South Effingham at Area 6 No. 1 Decatur, Wednesday, April 24, 4:30 p.m.

Class 1A-4A

Area 7 No. 2 Holy Innocents’ Episcopal at Area 8 No. 1 Savannah Christian, Friday, April 26, 4:30 p.m.

Photo Credits: Courtesy Birk Herrath Photography


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