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Air Academy takes first place in league with 19-5 rout of Palmer Ridge in girls' lacrosse
MONUMENT • Air Academy gave a preview of what next season’s box scores might look like and with it put itself in the driver’s seat for a home game in the first round of the state tournament.
Natalie Berg scored six goals as Air Academy took sole possession of first place in the Southern Girls’ Lacrosse standings with a convincing 19-5 victory over the Palmer Ridge Bears on Wednesday evening at Don Breese Stadium.
Seniors Miranda Beal and Erin Todd have 53 and 44 goals respectively this season and have been go-to scorers for the Kadets for the past two years. Berg, a sophomore, has 40 goals and will be a major component in the Air Academy attack for the next two seasons.
“It feels really awesome to be able to play with them and learn stuff from them,” Berg said. “Next year it’s going to be a couple of others (doing the scoring).”
Air Academy improved to 7-0 in league play and 13-2 overall. The win set up a critical matchup Friday between the Kadets and Cheyenne Mountain, which has one loss (a 13-9 setback against Palmer Ridge). A win there would clinch the league title and earn Air Academy a home opener in the state tournament.
“We will not look past Cheyenne,” Air Academy coach Sean Harmon said. “Cheyenne-Air Academy is kind of a big rivalry. They’re still in it since we could all end up with one loss.”
Two teams from each of the six lacrosse leagues will automatically qualify for state. At 6-1 in league play, Palmer Ridge would claim the second of those spots with a win over Rampart on Thursday and an Air Academy win on Friday. Should Cheyenne Mountain win, however, it could set up a three-way tie atop the standings.
Whichever of those teams finishes third has a decent shot of making the tournament via one of the 12 at-large berths.
A six-goal run, three of which were scored by Berg, in the first half gave Air Academy command of the game. After Palmer Ridge ended the run, Air Academy ended the half with three more scores to take an 11-3 lead into the intermission.
“That six-goal (run) was the draws that we won,” Harmon said. “I think Kaley Holmes probably won nine, 10 draws in a row. You get that many possessions and that’s going to really give you offensive momentum.”
That momentum carried over into the second half. The Kadets scored four of the first five goals and cruised the rest of the way.
“They played great defense on us in the transitions, so we had a tough time getting the ball upfield,” Palmer Ridge coach Nancy Fritzsche said. “We’ll just talk about the lessons we learned today and take those into the game tomorrow.”
While Berg fueled the take-control run, she wasn’t the only Kadet who was prolific offensively. Beal also scored six goals and sophomore MacEllen McDonough had three.
“We really came together,” Berg said. “We knew that this was going to be a tough game. We all knew to stay focused on the game.”
Kind of sounds like something the next big star would say.