TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for July 26, 2019

July 26, 2019 — United States Coach of the Year: Chris Robinson, Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.)

On January 17, 2018, Chris Robinson made an announcement that stunned the world of girls’ high school lacrosse in America.

He left an Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) program that he built into a national powerhouse, winning 177 consecutive games and eight straight championships in the IAAM “A” Division, the nation’s toughest conference, and moved to Florida to coach Orlando Lake Highland Prep.

On May 11, 2019, Robinson’s decision bore fruit. He had guided an Orlando Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) side to a state championship win.

But just the fact of winning a state title is not enough to justify Robinson’s choice as the TopOfTheCircle.com United States Coach of the Year for 2019.

After all, Florida is now the area of the United States with the most growth potential in girls’ scholastic lacrosse. Yes, there are about 350 scholastic programs in New York and another 100 or so in Maryland, but Florida is now a place where teams from all over the country come and play scrimmages or early-season league matches.

In addition, Florida is now the home of rising senior and U-19 national teamer Caitlyn Wurzburger, who has scored 100 goals and assisted on 100 others each of the last four years, a feat that may never be repeated.

It was Wurzburger who provided an acid test for Lake Highland the second game of Robinson’s tenure at the school, and it was her Delray American Heritage (Fla.) side which won the game by a 17-8 score.

Lake Highland wouldn’t be that outclassed again the entire season. The Highlanders took on all comers, including a good Brooklandville St. Paul’s (Md.) team which fell in overtime in this year’s IAAM “A” final, as well as Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.), Ellicott City Glenelg Country School (Md.), and assorted teams from North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

But the time the regular-season ended, the Lake Highland team had very much bought into Robinson’s system: win the draws, take good shots, value the ball, and play good defense.

The state championship win means that Robinson, in his coaching career, has a mark of 386 wins, 20 defeats, and one draw. That is a 95 percent winning percentage, which puts him alongside the likes of Danyle Heilig in field hockey, Anson Dorrance in collegiate women’s soccer, Sharon Pfluger in women’s college lacrosse, and Clair Bee in men’s college basketball, all of which are 90 percent or greater.

Also considered:

Lauren Benner, Highlands Ranch Valor Christian (Colo.): Team made its first state final, only to fall to Denver Colorado Academy (Colo.)

Peter Collins, Winnetka New Trier (Ill.): Led the Trevians to their first Illinois High School Association state title, and the program’s first state title of any kind since 2008

Taylor Cummings, Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.): Didn’t fiddle too much with the formula that has made this program so dominant this decade. The Eagles ran the table in the nation’s best lacrosse conference, showing a lot of intangibles in coming back from a two-goal deficit in the IAAM final

David Gibson, Fenton Rockwood Summit (Mo.): Embraced its underdog status all season in winning the first state championship for a public-school team since 2000

Leslie Klenk, Auburn Saint Dominic Academy (Maine): While avenging last year’s 10-goal loss to Naples Lake Country (Maine), the Saints were able to do it with no substitutes because of injury and players unavailable due to trips

Rachel Lasda, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.): While the story of the 2019 season may have surrounded the coaches who left rivals Moorestown and Ridgewood, she led the Royals to the Group I and the Tournament of Champions titles

Brigid Scanlon, Sykesville South Carroll (Md.): Team took a 10-goal loss to crosstown rival Century and turned that motivation into the school’s first state championship in girls’ lacrosse

Michele Uhlfelder, San Diego Scripps Ranch (Calif.): National Lacrosse Hall-of-Famer had a splendid season as coach, and the team had a dominant run through the CIF San Diego Section Open Tournament

Xan Zimatore, Villanova Academy of Notre Dame de Namur (Pa.): Though a number of other teams in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association may have had gaudier out-of-conference schedules, Zimatore kept focus on the job ahead and guided the team to a win in the state final for private schools