By CHRIS GOLTERMANN, CowetaScore
When it comes to the battle for bragging rights involving the county’s high school sports programs, girls lacrosse isn’t treated quite like life and death.
Sure, next month’s Coweta Cup will again be highly contested in what is expected to be a competitive three-game series between East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate.
It is also likely to decide state playoff seeding as well as this year’s Area 2-6A/7A between three of its more talented programs.
But a big reason why varsity girls lacrosse has come a long way as it celebrates its 10th year in 2018 is that players from all three GHSA programs are, more often than not, teammates outside their high school teams.
They included last summer when longtime Newnan head coach Robert Skinner joined coaching colleagues from East Coweta and Northgate in taking a group of girls to national tournaments while having success.
Which is why Friday’s first matchup between the host Lady Indians and visiting Lady Vikings at Garland Shoemake Stadium was more of an exhibition and an example of how far the sport has come, than a battle between hated rivals.
It helped that the initial meeting, which had Northgate’s girls pulling away in the second half for a 17-6 victory, didn’t count in the 2-6A/7A standings. But an opportunity to face off a month early still brought out a competitive, yet equally amicable setting.
The defending Area and Coweta Cup champion Lady Vikings, now 4-3 overall, continued to showcase enough of an edge against a 4-4 East Coweta squad to keep the Lady Indians at an arm’s reach while led by a six-point effort from senior Sydney Tuttle and a 15-save performance in goal from senior Kayla Hamlett.
Tuttle finished with three goals and three assists among seven Northgate players that scored in the victory.
Tina Sierra added four goals and an assist while Chandler West led the second half surge.
Ahead 10-5 at the break, West scored three of her four goals in the final 20 minutes while also adding an assist in the victory.
East Coweta was led by Adelyn Ryan’s two goals in the first half. Teammates Kendall Buttry and Katie Morganroth each added a goal and an assist.
Northgate’s defense stood tall after halftime following a late surge by the Lady Indians, who scored three goals in the final 5:07 to pull within five at the break.
Hamlett’s save on a free play to Moore in the opening moments of the second half matured into a transition that had West scoring immediately at the other end of the field.
“Having Kayla is a huge help,” Northgate head coach Shelley Langston said. “Our midfield transition, that’s something we’ve really worked hard on this season.”
Northgate broke an early 1-1 deficit with four unanswered goals capped off by Tuttle’s scoop and score off one of 16 draw control wins to create some distance in the opening 10 minutes of play. Tuttle had 13 of her team’s faceoff victories.
Along with three of Tina Sierra’s four goals, the Lady Vikings build a 10-5 halftime lead while using precision passing to make quick transitions. They included a go-ahead goal by Sierra that began with a long clear from Hamlett to Chandler West near midfield, with each picking up assists on the play.
Less than a minute later, Sierra made a pass from behind the cage to Tuttle as she cut to the net.
Both Hamlett and East Coweta counterpart Katie Owens kept respective teams in a two-goal game early with big saves before Morgan Robertson and Tuttle scored 10 seconds apart forcing a timeout from Lady Indians first-year head coach John Perkerson.
East Coweta responded with its late first-half rally. Moore found Ryan parked alone on a long feed off a stoppage, then set up Anna Robbins with another pretty pass to pull within 9-4 before finally closing the first-half scoring.
Northgate also picked up two goals from Macy Woodruff in the final 10 minutes in the victory, while Kennedy Halpin finished with a goal and an assist.
Northgate 11, East Coweta 5: Mia Griswold scored four goals, two on each side of halftime as the Lady Vikings built a 6-1 lead at the break.
Reese Sevigny scored both of her goals for Northgate in the first half, while Eliza Kuhne accounted for East Coweta’s first goal.
Newnan 19, M.L. King 1: At home, the Cougars quickly bounced back from a 8-7 loss at Wheeler in Area 2-7A play while improving their overall record to 5-3.
Newnan returns to Area 2-7A/6A play on Wednesday at North Atlanta.
East Coweta 11, Whitewater 5: On the road, the Indians improved to 5-4 overall.