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Milton girls’ lacrosse blazes trail for Southern presence in sport
by Marcel Pourtout
mpourtout@neighbornewspapers.com
June 26, 2013 02:29 PM | 3594 views | 0 0 comments | 74 74 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jessi Masinko (15), Claire Smith (12), Lydia Cassada (16) and Annie Ruland (24) will represent Milton at All-America contests throughout the country this summer<br>Staff/Erin Gray
Jessi Masinko (15), Claire Smith (12), Lydia Cassada (16) and Annie Ruland (24) will represent Milton at All-America contests throughout the country this summer
Staff/Erin Gray
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Since its inception as a club team in 2002, the Milton girls’ lacrosse team has exhibited a level of domination that has been rarely met by any team sport in the state of Georgia. The Eagles fielded their first varsity team in 2005, promptly winning four consecutive open events on the state-wide level. Currently, Milton has won four straight state championships, including this season’s Class AAAAAA title in a 10-7 victory over Lassiter in the title game.

The program’s architect, head coach Timothy Godby, also serves as a physical education teacher at Northwestern Middle School, which is on the same campus as Milton. Four players from this crop of Milton-area talent have not only led the Eagles to success on a state-wide level, but have laid the groundwork for the future success of southern lacrosse on the national stage. Milton finished this past season as a top-10 ranked team in the Nike/US Lacrosse national poll and the top ranked team in the South.

Alumna Annie Ruland has been one of Milton’s most-recognized athletes, leading the team in goals and assists the last two seasons, dominating on the draw and having a shooting percentage over 60 percent this past campaign. The attacker, who will attend the University of Southern California this fall, has been named a two-time All-America by Lacrosse Magazine and will end her prep career by participating in the Under Armour All-American Game, one of only 44 seniors in the country selected for the contest, on July 5 in Towson, Md.

“Annie has been a great player for our program,” said Godby. “Her talent has helped raise the level of everyone on the team.”

Fellow Eagles’ graduate Lydia Cassada, will attend Northwestern University in the fall, has also been named a two-time All-America by Lacrosse Magazine and been a part of all four state championship teams by Milton. She will be one of 80 seniors from around the country in the Champion All-American Showcase at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center in Orlando, Fla., on July 21.

Both players have seen the impact of their team on the status of lacrosse in Georgia and beyond. “More girls are slowly starting to join the sport,” said Ruland. “Not many teams are willing to put in the time that we do under coach Godby but lacrosse is starting to become a huge fad in Georgia.”

“Coach Godby has really allowed us to grow as a program,” said Cassada. “He’s had us play tough squads out of state to get more experience and grow together getting ready for the Georgia teams.”

Ruland and Cassada won’t be the only Milton players on the national stage this summer as rising sophomores, attacker Jessi Masinko and midfielder Claire Smith will be playing for the Under Armour All-America South team from July 5 to 7 in Baltimore, Md.

“I started playing lacrosse in the fifth grade with Eagle Sticks Atlanta under coach Godby,” state Smith, emphasizing the high level of lacrosse youth programs in the Milton area.

“The players have worked hard and competed with the top teams in the country,” said Godby. “The girls’ lacrosse game is getting better throughout the entire state of Georgia.” The players expect to show the nation the improvements the Peach state has made.

“Annie and I started out together for a club team called ATL and we would go north to play in tournaments where the girls didn’t believe that lacrosse was played down here and surprised we were even there,” said Cassada. “Now, its good to have a non-traditional area like Georgia grow and have players like us representing the South.”

“It’s not everyday that someone from our state is in one of these events,” Ruland said. “We want to show out for Milton.”

“Lacrosse is the fastest sport on two feet,” Cassada said. “For women, this is a sport that’s physical, fun to play and fans like to watch it. You’re on a team sport and get to know your teammates as family.”

“The older players have made it easier for us to look at bigger schools for recruiting,” said Masinko. “Annie and Lydia make you want to work harder and strive to be better because they’re so good.” The Milton girls’ lacrosse program has no signs of slowing down with the harmony between the players and the sport growing daily within the community.

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