The Ponte Vedra girls lacrosse team is headed to the region final after a dominating 18-2 victory over St. Augustine in the 1A Regional semifinal last Thursday.
PVHS rushed out to 12-1 lead by halftime and dominated defensively, throughout. The Sharks will travel to Gulf Breeze to take on the undefeated Dolphins in the regional final at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 29.
The Sharks have been on a roll, winning their last eight games by a combined score of 154-41. PVHS hasn’t scored fewer than 14 goals in a game during that run.
Head coach Jennifer Conway said being able to play and be together has been a huge factor this season, especially after not really getting to have a 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Most of it is just everybody having fun and happy to be out there,” Conway said. “We change it up a lot, so that keeps in interesting.”
The tempo and gratification from the team’s practices isn’t lost on the players, who Conway said usually end up surprised by how fast the time goes and the desire to keep going.
“I think a feeling like that makes for a great season,” Conway said.
One of the other major keys to this season’s success comes from its experience. Nine seniors make up the PVHS lacrosse team, which has significance in building next year’s team, as well as the extra motivation for the seniors to go out on top.
“We have a deep team,” Conway said. “I think just for them, they have a lot of emotions and feelings about it. So as a coaching staff, we’ve agreed not to coach to their emotions because it changes the game, so we try to just coach strategy.”
“The girls have enough emotions to cover everybody,” Conway added laughing.
The nine graduating seniors are Tori Bray, Sami Lowinger, Trish Balser, captain Katie Stoudt, Eliza Lewin, captain Taylor Rocha, Megan Rolison, Courtney Rausch and captain Pierson Schuchart. Conway has coached many of those seniors for years, starting with recreational leagues, so that bond is not lost on her.
“I think because of that relationship, I just really want to do a great job for them, and they want to do a great job for me,” she said. “So that’s been a really inspiring balance.”
Gulf Breeze (13-0), the top-seeded team in the 1A Region, advanced to the final with a commanding 19-4 win over South Walton. The Dolphins have also been putting up big numbers, outscoring opponents 228-39 in 13 games this season.
“Our main focus is what we do, so we’re just going to go out and train hard,” Conway said about heading into the regional final. “If you focus on your strengths, I think that will help us.”
Regardless of what happens in Thursday’s matchup, Conway said seeing the growth of the team this season has been a win already.
“I’m really excited for these girls,” she said. “When you watch them work so hard for something and put so much time and effort in, I think that motivates me to put a lot of time and effort in, so we’re really excited to hopefully keep going.”
As far as beyond the regional final, Conway is trying not to look too far ahead.
“We play one game at a time … but the [state] finals sure would look nice,” she said.