The Brighton girls lacrosse team has its usual batch of returning All-Monroe County players and an All-American back, too, in senior attack Lauren Smolensky.
But here’s what should send shivers up the spine of every opponent this spring: The Barons have more starters back than any other squad in coach Rich Curtis’ 19 seasons, and it’s not like they’re coming off a so-so season.
Preview: Girls lacrosse team capsules
The Section V Class B champion a year ago and state runner-up, Brighton debuts as the No. 1 team in the Democrat and Chronicle‘s first coaches’ poll this spring. Playmakers Meaghan Bowen, Arianna Papier and Carly Randall graduated, but Smolensky, Kelzi Van Atta, Emily Goldman, Erin Cregan and goalie Sara Tullio – all seniors – are still around to power the attack. So is freshman McKenzie Harris. She pumped in 110 goals over the past two seasons, which might be the most productive a junior-high player has even been for Brighton.
“She has a full knowledge of the game. She started early and really understands what’s going on,” said Curtis, who trusts Harris so much that she’ll take most of the draws.
His teams have won three of the past four sectional crowns and an amazing 13 in the past 16 years. Not only does Curtis develop good players, he keeps a lineup that blends upperclassmen and youngsters so the Barons are rarely without experience and talent on the field.
Smolensky opened the season by scoring five goals to go with three assists in Tuesday’s 16-9 win at Honeoye Falls-Lima, last year’s Section V Class C champion that is ranked fourth in the poll behind, just behind No. 2 Penfield and No. 3 Webster Thomas. Smolensky had 67 goals and 52 assists for last year’s 18-4 club.
“She’s a quick little attacker, knows how to dodge and assist. That’s a great combination,” Curtis said of the 5-foot-3 Canisius College-bound player. “She’s so quick, tough to guard.
Cregan had four goals and Harris added two and four assists on Tuesday. Goldman, Cregan and Van Atta, who has committed to Syracuse University, control the midfield and the Barons also have Hannah Buschner back on the team. A senior defensive wing, Curtis said she took last year off to focus on soccer, but was a lacrosse starter as a sophomore.
So that’s really like having 10 starters back.
“I think the most we’ve returned was six,” said Curtis, who with a career record of 296-60 is on the brink of a milestone win.
Brighton hosts Section IV’s Corning at 4 p.m. Saturday. Could this be another group that reaches the final weekend of the season like 13 other Barons teams have done? The pieces are all there. Brighton still owns just that one state title from 2005.
“They have to know you’re only as good as your last game and I think we’ll do that. We have a very tight-knit group,” Curtis said. “They need to stay focused and play as a team all year and not get caught up in doing your own thing.”
Defending Section V girls lacrosse champions
Class A: Penfield, which has won three straight titles and four in eight years.
Class B: Brighton, which has won two straight and 13 in 16 years.
Class C: Honeoye Falls-Lima, which has won three straight and six in seven years.
Rank, team Rec. Pts.
1. Brighton (3) 1-0 48
2. Penfield (2) 2-0 47
3. W. Thomas 2-1 37
4. HF-Lima 2-1 32
5. Pittsford 1-0 28
6. Victor 2-0 25
7. Irondequoit 2-0 23
8. Canandaigua 2-0 11
9. Penn Yan 2-0 8
10. Rush-Hen. 1-1 5
Honorable mention: Webster Schroeder, Waterloo, Fairport, Mercy.