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Sacred Heart Prep girls celebrate CCS lacrosse title on their home turf

Rick Eymer, Palo Alto Online
Senior Maddie Levey plays defense for the Sacred Heart Prep girls lacrosse team and marvels at how her offensive teammates move the ball around.

In the Gators 13-1 victory over visiting Mitty on Thursday, Levey and her defensive teammates had plenty to watch.

Thanks in large part to senior Genna Gibbons' ability to win face-offs, SHP relentlessly attacked the Monarchs.
Sacred Heart Prep (13-3) played such an efficient game, the outcome was never in doubt, and yet the Gators never got ahead of themselves. They continued celebrating every goal and rushed the field when time ran down. The school started celebrating its second Central Coast Section lacrosse title in four days.

And there's only been two such tournaments. The SHP boys won Monday in San Francisco. The girls got to win on their own field.

"I'm so proud of how we bonded," Levey said. "As a freshman I could never imagine this. We had so few seniors last year that this has been basically the same team for two years and we've grown so much."

That SHP only scored 13 goals is a credit to Mitty, which clogged up the front of the net as best it could. The Gators patiently tossed the ball around looking for openings, always managing to create a small crease or two; not bothering to rush things.

"They always pass to the person who has the best shot," Levey said.

When Levey, Laura Barnds and the rest of the defenders did get a chance, well, allowing one goal (it was 10-0 at halftime) speaks for itself.

Levey, Gibbons, Lauren Hagerty and Kalista Hurel are the only seniors this year. SHP coach Wendy Kridel thinks all four of them could play in college.
Gibbons will be playing competitively for Tufts. Levey said she'll play for the club team at Wisconsin-Madison.
"She's one of the best players to come through this school," Kridel said of Gibbons. "Maybe one of the best on the west coast. A player of her caliber, who had too make up for starting late, worked so hard at it, not just in practice or club but taking extra reps on her own."

Sacred Heart Prep winning a section title is satisfying for Kridel but she sees it as only the beginning.
Kridel took over the Sacred Heart Prep program six years ago, after a highly successful coaching career in Maryland, where she won state titles with both private and public schools. The level of interest in lacrosse on the east coast ranks up there with the level of interest in Texas football.

"It was an opportunity to help grow the game," Kridel said. "It was the time of life where I had an opportunity to move west and try something different."

"Lacrosse is growing here," Kridel said. "It's an attractive game for females. They get to run around and there's physical play. I want to create an environment where you want to play. These seniors gave up things to continue playing lacrosse together. Now they get to feel what its like to win something and not just play a league schedule."

The CCS tournament was added motivation this season. It could be NorCals next year.

"You only have one chance to be the first," Kridel said.

"It's very exciting," Levey said. "I knew we could do it because we have such a talented team overall. It was something we talked about at the beginning of the season."

Kridel is also seeing more grads going on to play in college, especially with more opportunities opening up every year.

"It helps that schools want to add the program," she said. "West coast players are more willing to go to the east coast than east coast players are willing to come out west."

Junior Ellie Noto will be headed to Notre Dame, maybe not quite the east coast but it is the Eastern Time Zone. Already a co-captain, with Gibbons, she clearly possesses leadership skills that will lead to big things.
It seems the best is yet to come.

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Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12