Lacrosse | Season Preview

St. Thomas Aquinas, Pine Crest seek first lacrosse state title

Madison Cunningham is among five St. Thomas Aquinas players committed to play lacrosse at a Division I college.
Madison Cunningham is among five St. Thomas Aquinas players committed to play lacrosse at a Division I college.



April 14-18: Districts; April 22: Regionals first round; April 25: Regionals second round;

April 29: Regionals third round; May 2-3: State finals at IMG Academy in Bradenton.


AMERICAN HERITAGE: Coach: Jason Robinson (6th year overall, 1st year); Top players: Tristan Reyes (sr. A); Connor Martin (jr. D); Ricky Chase (jr. D); Noteworthy: Payne had 44 goals and 23 assists last season.

CORAL SPRINGS CHARTER: Coach: Romeo Cuvin (4th year); Last year: 3-12; Top players: Mekhail Cuvin (sr. G); Brandon Ehlebralht (jr. M); Chris Day (so. D); Noteworthy: Cuvin has several college offers.

DOUGLAS: Coach: Ryan Burton (7th year overall, 1st year here); Last year: 10-4; Top players: Jordan Bell (sr. A); Allan Wlodarczyk (sr. M); A.J. Ferraro (Jr. D); Noteworthy: Wlodarczyk committed to Navy.

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS: Coach: Terry Crowley (6th year); Last year: 16-3, regional runner-ups; Top players: Revin Koss (sr. M); R.J. Curtin (sr. A); J.P. Crowley (jr. A); Noteworthy: Curtin is coming off a huge year.

UNIVERSITY: Coach: Jan Northrop (3rd year); Last year: 10-10; Top players: Daniel Harris (sr. G); Cole Blanco (jr. D); Daniel Eisdorfer (jr. A); Noteworthy: This year’s junior class started program when they were in 7th grade. This year, they are hoping for their first winning season.


AMERICAN HERITAGE: Coach: Jim Hill (5th year); Last year: 7-7; Top players: Erika Mazer (sr. M); Jody Julmice (jr. W); Ashleigh Skolnick (jr. G); Noteworthy: Troy Millican joins Hill and Marissa Pacitti on the coaching staff.

CARDINAL GIBBONS: Coach: Kate McKague (1st year); Last year: 3-10; Top players: Meghan Moran (sr. D/M); Michelle Miggins (jr. A/M); Ashlyn Petito (so. D); Noteworthy: Moran committed to Stetson – Gibbons’ second Division I lacrosse recruit.

CORAL SPRINGS CHARTER: Coach: Deborah Gelb-Cuvin (4th year); Last year: 10-4; Top players: Madi Roberts (jr. M); Ximena Gasc (sr. M/D); Paola Narveaz (jr. M/A); Noteworthy: 16 players return.

DOUGLAS: Coach: John McClain (2nd year); Last year: 13-3; Top players: Lindsay Wolk (jr. A); Remington Batwin (sr. D); Selena Lugo (so. M); Noteworthy: Wolk scored 53 goals last season but team needs to find a new goalie.

PINE CREST: Coach: Eileen Piske (14th year overall, 9th year here); Last year: 15-4; Top players: Allie Gershman (jr. M); Alexa Eskenazi (jr. G); Caroline Jordan (so. M); Noteworthy: Gershman committed to Southern Cal.

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS: Coach: Sarah Paul-Hus (1st year); Last year: 15-5, lost in regional final; Top players: Lauren Morando (sr. M); Jenna Tolzman (sr. M); Chloe Mudjwit (sr. A); Noteworthy: Five Raiders players have lacrosse scholarships.

SOUTH PLANTATION: Coach Mike Collins (5th year); Last year: 16-3, lost in second round play-in; Top players: Emma Rose (jr. C); Dominique Santa Maria (jr. A); Izabela Cianci (Fr. M); Noteworthy: Led by Rose, one of the county’s top juniors, the Paladins hope to make the playoffs again.

UNIVERSITY: Coach: Marykate DiBenedetto; Last year: 5-7; Top players: Emily Chancey (sr. G); Danielle DeRamon (sr. D); Jada Preston (8th grade A); Noteworthy: Chancey, the starting goalie since 8th grade, will play for Vassar College next season.

WEST BROWARD: Coach: Bill O’Connell (3rd year overall, 2nd year here); Last year: 3-12; Top players: Natassia Ragbeer (sr. M); Arielle Jonas (jr. A); Juliette Cosano (so. M); Noteworthy: Senior midfielder Kristin Ten is first West Broward player to earn a college scholarship for lacrosse – she’s going to Asbury.

WESTERN: Coach: Bianca Diaz (2nd year); Last year: 13-2; Top players: Kaitlyn Carmona (sr. A); Margaret Waite (sr. D); Maddison Woodall (so. M); Noteworthy: Former UCF standout Diaz, 23, went to Haiti in October to teach kids to play lacrosse.

Special to The Miami Herald

It’s not often that a coach raves, unsolicited, about a rival player, but that’s exactly what happened this week when Pine Crest’s Eileen Pliske spoke about St. Thomas Aquinas goalie Madison Cunningham.

“She’s the most amazing goalie I’ve ever seen in South Florida,” said Pliske, who is in her 14th year as a coach. “She stuffed us left and right. She had a presence for a freshman that I’ve never seen before.”

That freshman is now a 16-year-old sophomore.

Cunningham, who has already committed to Penn State, leads a loaded Aquinas team that could be the first Broward County school to win state.

She made 11 saves in last year’s district final as Aquinas eliminated Pine Crest 13-8. The score was tied 7-7 at the half, and Cunningham was virtually impenetrable thereafter, allowing only an insignificant goal in the final minute.

“As a player, I don’t try to think of myself as the best,” said Cunningham, whose team was eventually knocked out in the regional finals. “But it’s an honor and incredibly humbling to hear another coach talk about my skills.”

Including Cunningham, Aquinas has a program-record five players committed to Division I colleges, which is surely the envy of most any school in the state.

The other four D-I recruits are seniors: midfielders Lauren Morando (Louisville), Jenna Tolzman (Iona) and Mary Ann Skubal (William & Mary) and attacker Chloe Mudjwit (Virginia Commonwealth).

The good news for Pine Crest is that Aquinas — which has a new coach in Sarah Paul-Hus — has moved out of its district this year, although the rivals will likely meet in the regional playoffs.

However, Pine Crest, which advanced to the state semifinals in 2011 and 2012, will have to replace two All-Americans who are now playing at powerhouse college lacrosse programs — Carli Marsh (Florida) and Jasmine Docal (Northwestern). Marsh had 100 goals and 19 assists last season, and Docal had 43 goals and 26 assists.

Pine Crest’s go-to scorer this season figures to be junior Allie Gershman, who had 38 goals and 28 assists last year. She is a Southern Cal recruit.

Two other juniors star for Pine Crest — goalie Alexa Eskenazi and defender Nikki Marsh. The sophomore class includes midfielders Caroline Jordan and Bianca Tedesco and attacker Izzy Lopez, a transfer from Aquinas.

Put it all together, and Pine Crest and Aquinas figure to be two of the deepest and best teams in the state. And if they do meet again in the playoffs, it could come down to Cunningham in goal.

“She’s a great goalie,” Gershman said. “She was aggressive against us. She came out and stopped us high and low. Wherever we put it, she was there.

“I think we need to fake more and make her move so we can pull her to one side of the cage and maybe get one in. It’s going to take a team effort. But I think we can come out on top next time.”

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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