Nighthawks lacrosse teams roll on

Published 3:50 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2023

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Both the men’s and women’s First Flight lacrosse teams claimed important victories last week and advanced in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) state playoffs. Each squad played last night (May 9), but scores were not available at press time.

While the 8-4 women’s Nighthawks hosted Union Pines (12-4) of Cameron in the third round of the playoffs, the men’s squad traveled to Hillsborough to take on Orange (16-3) in the second round, a team they defeated 13 to 7 last year to get into the championship game.

On Senior Night back at home last Thursday night, the girls dominated visiting Northside Jacksonville. The ’Hawks unleashed a powerful offensive assault to claim an impressive 17-5 victory over the visiting Monarchs.

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First Flight ruled each draw and quickly looked to move it down field for fast breaks. The offense was led by sophomore Mer Lige with five goals, juniors Kellen Morris, Carly Gardill and seniors Courtney Beasley and Gwen Botson.

In general, coach Steve Morris said they don’t have too many set plays, but instead he teaches his players to move independently of each other. He tells them to follow slides and instructs them to know when to make a cut.

“When we’re throwing and catching better, we’ll be more dangerous in the years to come,” he said.

Defensively, goalkeeper Kendra Addison did a great job at making saves and then getting the ball up field with outlet passes. Coach said Chloe Tucker is also having a good year.

From wire-to-wire, the ’Hawks stayed on the attack and it paid off big as the team put the game out of reach in the first half with a 12 to 2 lead.

In a short ceremony at mid-field during halftime, two seniors on the squad – Courtney Beasley and Gwendalyn Botson – were honored with family members in attendance. Cameras were blazing as the announcer said Beasley is headed for Clemson and Botson plans to attend Belmont Abbey near Charlotte next fall to play lacrosse.

For the men, three senior athletes were recognized, Elijah Swain, Cameron “Cam” Van Lunen and Will Robinson. Swain plans to attend Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Van Lunen and Robinson are headed to Hampden Sydney (Va.) College to play “lax” for the Tigers.

For them to close out a super senior season, they need to buckle up tight and defeat Orange. Against Western Alamance last Friday, the ’Hawks jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and coach Van Lunen said “ok, we can beat these guys.”

But the Warriors bounced to tie it and they had plenty of senior “firepower” to get the job done, he added.  In addition, First Flight spent plenty of time in the penalty box.

But in the end, Van Lunen remained confident they could take the contest.

“By the fourth, we pretty much knew we had it,” he said. The final score was much closer than the game was played he also said.

Freshman attackman Danny Gardill has been racking up the points and was just named Conference Rookie of the Year, Van Lunen reported. Attackman Cody Keller is also doing “real well” and scored a couple goals at West Alamance. Together those two make a “nice one, two punch.”

Gardill has “super stick skills” and Keller is “an awfully athletic,” coach said. “Joe Wagner is playing really strong too. He had two goals and is gradually getting better.”

Senior defensemen Cam and Robinson are keeping things tight and occasionally, Cam breaks free and slams a goal home with that long defensive pole.

“Cam has scored a few goals (12 total) and he had two assists the other night,” said Van Lunen.