Around the Crease: May 31, 2012

Annie Ruland totaled 154 points and helped Milton to a state championship in 2012. Jimmy Hurlburt/ESPNHS

ESPNHS continues its weekly feature, Around the Crease, which takes a look at players, teams and high school lacrosse news from around the country.

How Sweet It Is

On May 23 coach Sean Harmon guided Air Academy (Air Force Academy, Colo.) to a 14-8 win over Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.) in the Colorado State championship game.

The win was the Kadets' 12th straight victory. What makes the season sweeter for Harmon seeing his premiere player, senior midfielder Miranda Beal, off to his home state of Maryland where she will enroll at the U.S. Naval Academy near where Harmon attended Fort Meade (Md.).

"Sean is always giving me a lot of credit for what I've accomplished in high school and for what I'm doing in the future,” said Beal. "I'm going to the academy to become an officer in the Navy, so I'm hoping to major in something like engineering or math. My goal is to become an officer and to serve my country well. But I think I'm 100 percent ready to take on the academy and play Division I lacrosse there."

Called a complete, two-way player by Harmon, Beal tallied 120 points (72 goals, 48 assists), 61 ground balls and 56 draw controls this season.

"I had a girl who was recruited by Maryland, Loyola and Towson in 2009, but she ultimately chose Denver University and stayed here in Colorado," Harmon said. "I went to Anne Arundel Community College and then to UMBC as a FOGO midfielder. I grew up watching the Naval Academy play lacrosse. So being a Maryland boy who was born and raised in that state, this is significant for me to have one of my players go back to my home state."

Harmon has other excellent players such as senior attacker Erin Todd (79 goals, 41 assists), who averaged six goals per game, and will play at the University of Denver. Sophomore midfielder Natalie Berg scored 52 times with 32 assists. Sophomore defender Jessica Berg scooped 80 ground balls and had 37 steals, sophomore Kayley Homes had 102 draw controls and scored 37 goals, and senior goalie Kenzie Baer made 121 saves.

But as Beal leaves behind a legacy at Air Academy, she hopes to start a new one at the Naval Academy.

"I feel like I'm going out there with a lot of support from my community. My coach is behind me and my family is behind me," said Beal. "I definitely feel like there is a lot of Colorado going out there with me. It's really only me who is putting the pressure on myself, so hopefully that and my mindset will help me to get through it pretty easily."

Falcons’ Coach Has Hope For The Future

Although lacrosse has been a sanctioned sport for only three years in North Carolina, Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) has swiftly become a dominant program. The Falcons and second-year coach Abby Mead completed a 20-0 season for the state title with a 17-6 win over Charlotte Catholic on May 19 in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship game.

Green Hope won consecutive championships in 2005 and 2006, but the 2012 title is the first one since the sport was sanctioned by the state in 2010. This season also marks the first time in program history the Falcons have gone undefeated in a season.

As dominant as the Falcons have become inside the Tar Heel State, Mead said she would eventually like to see them tested beyond the border.

"Our players will be on a club team in the fall, so they'll spend more time playing out of the area. Being able to play teams from New Jersey and Maryland will only help our credibility, because everyone is asking if we're just good for a North Carolina team," said Mead, a native of Washington, D.C. who played defense in college at Davidson.

"Soccer has been king here for so long in the spring, so a lot of the better athletes have gone to soccer from a very young age,” Mead said. “But I think that we're starting to make ground as lacrosse gains popularity and as people begin to see the collegiate opportunities."

ESPN Top 50 Junior Maggie Auslander, who scored five goals in the championship game and was named game MVP, highlights the Falcons’ talent. The North Carolina commit finished the season with 65 goals and 34 assists.

Senior midfielder Campbell Stanley scored 56 goals and 25 assists and junior defender Julie Hagan scooped 58 ground balls and controlled 53 draws. Sophomore attacker Katherine Smith (73 goals, 25 assists) led the Falcons in goals scored, and sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Koeller contributed 42 goals and 14 assists.

"We're losing one of our senior starters who was an impact player," said Mead. "But we have four of our top five scorers returning, so we're set up pretty well for next year."

The Falcons will have a new head coach next season as Mead, who received her MBA from UNC the weekend prior to the state championship game, will be moving to New York City at the end of the summer to work for J.P. Morgan. Green Hope is currently searching for its next head coach to replace Mead.

Milton Was Goal Oriented

Junior attacker Annie Ruland, senior midfielder Amanda Lockwood and junior attacker Lydia Cassada scored five, four and three goals respectively as POWERADE FAB 50 No. 40 Milton (Ga.) won their seventh Georgia state title 18-4 over Roswell on May 19.

Ruland led the Eagles, winners of their third straight championship under coach Tim Godby, with 74 goals and 80 assists on 64 percent shooting. Committed to USC, Ruland's assists and total points (154) are believed to be a single-season school records.

Committed to Northwestern, Cassada totaled 73 goals to go with 22 assists, and the Vanderbilt-bound Lockwood had 58 and 16 and won 139 draws.

The Eagles averaged 17.23 goals per game this season and scored at least 20 goals in a game seven times.

"We have a good group coming back. We've got five players who are coming back that are Division I-commits," said Godby. "We have seven starters coming back, and we have a good crop of young talent coming up, so we should be in pretty good shape for next year."

Massachusetts Cracks Down On Concussions

Beginning next season, Massachusetts middle and high schools will be required to report sports-related head injuries and suspected concussions to the state Department of Public Health.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association is giving authority to lacrosse referees to eject any player they feel may have targeted an opponent’s head or hit with intent to injure.