Not to be

Boys lacrosse team falls short in quarterfinals against GAC


Annika Pepper

Junior midfielder Nate Mitchell and an opposing Spartan fight for a loose ground ball during the Panthers’ quarterfinal game against Greater Atlanta Christian. The Panthers’ explosive season came to an end on Friday against the visiting Spartans in a 6-4 loss. Ground balls proved to be fatal for Starr’s Mill, as the team had 11 turnovers against the Spartans. In comparison, the Spartans only had six turnovers.

Daniel Stackhouse, Sports Editor

After a blowout win against King’s Ridge a few days prior, the Starr’s Mill boys lacrosse team was riding high on momentum. They hosted the A-AAAAA quarterfinals with hopes to make it to the semifinals for the first time in program history. The Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans had other plans, marching into Panther Stadium and defeating the Panthers 6-4.

Junior attacker Charlie Crockett scans the field for an opening. Crockett did not score, but did have one assist and collected one ground ball. Starr’s Mill had their worst offensive game of the season, only scoring four goals. (Annika Pepper)

Turnovers were a fatal flaw for Starr’s Mill as the Panthers surrendered the ball 11 times. Production on offense was at a season low. Junior midfielder Bennett Via led the team with two goals, and junior midfielder Barrett Schmidlkofer and senior captain Gabe Lopez scored one goal apiece. Juniors attackers Charlie Crockett and Collin Smith, along with senior captain Luke Rusterucci and Lopez all had one assist each.

Greater Atlanta Christian had five different scorers against the Panthers. Freshman midfielder Harrison Voelzke led the Spartans with two goals. Junior midfielder Will Gary, senior midfielder Connor Maxa, and senior captains Mason Duriez and Joseph Rose all scored one goal. Duriez and Rose also had one assist apiece.

“I thought it was a little bit of bad luck early,” head coach Jeff Schmidlkofer said. “[GAC] scored two early goals that could’ve gone either way if we pick up a ground ball… You give up six goals in lacrosse, you win 99% of the time. The issue is that [GAC] gave up four. They’re good… and so are we. They were just better than us today.”

Momentum was on GAC’s side during the first quarter, scoring the first goal a little after the first minute of play. The Panther defense kept them from scoring for the majority of the quarter. That is until Voeltze scored with about four minutes to go, and Duriez followed suit with less than three minutes to go. Starr’s Mill had no answers as the Spartans led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.

GAC kept up the pressure throughout the second quarter. However, the Panthers pressed on as they tried to find ways to score. With around five minutes to go, Starr’s Mill held onto the ball for around three minutes, but did nothing with it. WIthout being able to make it past the GAC defense, Starr’s Mill still trailed 3-0 going into halftime.

It’s just one of those situations where we ran into a really good defensive team…

— head coach Jeff Schmidlkofer

“[GAC] really knows what they’re doing on defense,” Schmidlkofer said. “They know how to help, they communicate very well, they got a guy over there that runs the defense that plays in the [Premier Lacrosse League] and he knows what he’s doing. They really made us work to score those four goals, and it’s just sports. You’re not going to win every time you step out on the field.”

In the third quarter, the Spartans continued to add on to their lead. In the early minutes of the quarter they scored two goals to go up 5-0. With seven minutes to go, Via scored off an assist from Smith to finally get the Panthers on the board.

With time ticking away in the third quarter, Rusteucci picked up a ground ball and fed it to Lopez for a goal. Gary squashed the Panthers’ momentum seconds later with another goal for the Spartans. Heading into the fourth, the Panthers trailed 6-2.

Throughout the fourth quarter, time proceeded to waste away with neither team doing anything. With two and a half minutes to go, Starr’s Mill scored a goal. They scored again with 45 seconds to go to cut the deficit to two. Despite the sudden surge, it was too late. The clock expired as the Spartans stood victorious 6-4.

“This group [of seniors] absolutely despises losing, and I’ll take that,” Schmidlkofer said. “They just did everything we asked them to do. It’s just one of those situations where we ran into a really good defensive team… This group is probably up there with the best classes that I’ve ever had. Just because that nobody really expected much out of them after we lost all of the talent last year, and then these guys didn’t listen to it and they came out and we were two goals away from advancing, but we didn’t.”

Starr’s Mill boys lacrosse ends their season in the quarterfinals with a 15-7 final record. They will lose seven seniors, six of which will be playing at the college level. GAC advances to the A-AAAAA semifinals. They host Pace Academy on May 12 at 6:30 p.m.