Carli Fleisher Proved She Belongs in Senior Season at American Heritage-Delray

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


American Heritage-Delray (Fla.) entered the 2022 season without two of its top offensive players due to injuries.

It turned out not to be a problem.

Carli Fleisher, who has worked with coach John McClain since she was in the third grade, was looking for more of a challenge and transferred from Stoneman Douglas (Fla.) to American Heritage-Delray before her senior year.

Transferring to American Heritage-Delray put Fleisher not only in a position to play against some of the nation’s best. It also gave her a shot at winning a state championship.

While ultimately her Stallions fell short of winning that title, Fleisher proved she belonged with the best players in the country. Scoring 62 goals and adding 58 assists this season while leading American Heritage-Delray to an 18-3 record, Fleisher was the clear choice for USA Lacrosse Magazine South Girls’ Player of the Year.

She kept American Heritage-Delray at or near the top of the South rankings throughout 2022 despite key players Payton Wainman and Payton Bejzak having season-long injuries. McClain said Fleisher is among the most driven players he has worked with.

“We’re missing these two dominant ballplayers, and all of a sudden, Carli walks in and says, ‘I am going to American Heritage,’” McClain said. “It was a beautiful thing. It was exciting, thrilling. I was a little destressed. We have an unbelievable attacker coming into this program that is really going to enhance this team. It wasn’t just her talent. It was her attitude, her work ethic, her positive attitude to really help with the culture on the team.”

Fleisher said playing against American Heritage-Delray last year sparked her interest in transferring to the program.

“We got clobbered,” she said. “It was in that moment I was like, I am going to college, and I want to get the best reps that I can and really excel my game as much as I can before I go off to college, and I felt American Heritage was so much better than the team I was currently on that I took the conversation with my parents and I was like, ‘Next year, what am I going to do?’”

McClain said it helped that Fleisher’s best friend from Florida Select 22, Casey Roberts, is also on the American Heritage-Delray roster. Even with having friends and club teammates on the roster, Fleisher was nervous about how she would be accepted on her new squad.

“You don’t really see transfers your senior year,” she said. “Some people can take that the wrong way and hold a grudge. It was very nerve wracking, but as soon as I got there, they made it seem like family to me, and I was just so happy with how I was brought in by them. They could have isolated me, but they took me in and made me feel comfortable. The chemistry on the team, it was like I have been playing with them for years.”

 “It became seamless when she got involved with the relationships on the team. That was really seamless,” McLain said. “Understanding schemes and what we expected of her, we had to teach her what we are looking to do this year, and we run different things that she was used to coming from Stoneman Douglas. She picked that up immediately. She is a highly coachable kid.”

Throughout the season, Fleisher continued to impress. Taking on powerhouse St. Paul’s (Md.), the nation’s No. 1 team, she scored a pair of goals and added two helpers in a 15-10 loss in a game that was tied at 7 at halftime and was a two-goal contest with four minutes left. She also had a goal and assist in an eye-opening win over Northeast juggernaut Bayport Blue-Point (N.Y.). She parlayed her success this year to become the only player in the region to earn a spot in the coveted Under Armour All-American Game.

“She’s shifty. She’s real shifty,” McClain said. “She’s got these little hesitation and delays coming off on her elevation move. You don’t know if she’ll inside roll on you, question mark on you, hesitate, do a little rocker on you. Her left hand is probably better than her right hand coming from that low left side. She has been on that low left side her entire life. If there is an ambidextrous kid, it’s her.”







Fleisher picked up the game in the third grade. She got into lacrosse to be with a friend who went to another school. That friend ended up playing soccer, but Fleisher remained committed to lacrosse. By the time she got to the sixth grader, Fleisher started to realize playing lacrosse collegiately was a possibility.

“I have always wanted to play lacrosse in college for a long time now,” she said. “Having great mentors, they really pushed me to want to be like them and they set great examples. My family is always behind me and having my family push me and allowing me to use what resources to become the best player possible also really helps a lot.”

Fleisher is committed to Northwestern, where she previously attended camp. She first stepped on Northwestern’s campus in the eighth grade and knew right away she wanted to play there.

Two players Fleisher said she looked up to at the camp were Katie and Kiera Shanley back when they were Northwestern freshmen. Now, Fleisher will be their teammate at a program coming off a Final Four run in the NCAA tournament.

While Fleisher is still deciding her major in college, she said she has an interest in business and follows the stock market. She also coaches youth lacrosse and is currently working with a group of elementary school kids.

FINAL SOUTH TOP 10

1. Lake Highland Prep (Fla.), 18-2

The Highlanders defeated American Heritage-Delray (Fla.) to claim their second state title since 2019. Senior Jacqueline Jaskiewicz, a Georgetown recruit, led Lake Highland with 50 goals while senior and Franklin and Marshall College prospect Lauren Pittman had a team-leading 37 assists. Lake Highland Prep will lose four of its top five scorers with class of 2024 midfielder Izzy Hughes expected to carry the load. Previous: 1

2. Milton (Ga.), 20-3

The Eagles claimed their fifth consecutive state championship, rallying from a late two-goal deficit to defeat Creekview (Ga.) 13-12. All three of Milton’s losses in 2022 were by a single goal. The Eagles’ season was highlighted with wins over Connelly School of the Holy Child (Md.) and Hillgrove (Ga.). Milton returns its top scorer Maeve Simonds for one more season before she heads off to Ohio State. Previous: 2

3. Hockaday (Texas), 20-1

The Daisies dominated Westlake (Texas) 20-8 in the state championship. The victory marked back-to-back state championships and the fifth overall in the program’s history. Hockaday’s season was highlighted by a win over Torrey Pines (Calif.). Hockaday’s top player, Minje Kwun, will head to Dartmouth this summer. Previous: 3

4. American Heritage-Delray (Fla.), 18-3

The Stallions had a 26-game winning streak versus in-state opponents snapped in the state championship against Lake Highland Prep (Fla.). Carli Fleisher, a Northwestern signee, joined American Heritage-Delray to provide a team-leading 62 goals and 58 assists. American Heritage-Delray had significant out-of-state wins over Bayport-Blue Point (N.Y.) and Agnes Irwin (Pa.). American Heritage-Delray is hopeful to see the return of Payton Bezjak who missed the entire season due to injury. Previous: 4

5. Bartram Trail (Fla.), 22-3

The Bears survived a pair of one-goal contests in the Florida 2A final four to claim a state championship, including an 8-7 win over Vero Beach (Fla.) in the finals. Sophomore Ryann Frechette had an impressive campaign with 94 goals and 52 assists. Marina and Aubrie Dean both head to St. Leo University after strong seasons. Previous: 5

6. Steinbrenner (Fla.), 21-2

After losing just once in the regular season, the Warriors came one game short of reaching the title game for the second straight year. Steinbrenner fell to eventual 2A state champs Bartram Trail (Fla.) 5-4 on May 6. Junior midfielder Taylor Lapointe led Steinbrenner with 54 goals and 19 assists. Steinbrenner is expected to return nearly its entire lineup next season. Previous: 6

7. Blessed Trinity (Ga.), 22-1

The Titans closed out an impressive season with a 20-2 win over Northview (Ga.) to claim a Class A-5A title. The victory marked back-to-back state championships for Blessed Trinity (Ga.). Leading scorer Clark Hamilton is expected to return next year while second-top scorer Marisa Inoa will head to Furman. Previous: 7

8. Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.), 20-2

The Crusaders won their fifth title in program history, defeating Charlotte Catholic (N.C.) 13-9 in the state championship game. Cardinal Gibbons returns all four of its top scorers, including freshman Lexi Mullahy and sophomore Isabelle Hammond, who both had 59 goals. Previous: 8

9. Creekview (Ga.), 20-2

The Grizzlies came minutes shy and a goal short of stopping Milton (Ga.) from claiming its fifth state title. Creekview lost in the state championship 13-12 after holding a late 11-9 advantage. Creekview’s season was highlighted by wins over Starr’s Mill (Ga.) and Hillgrove (Ga.). Creekview loses Lauren Render to Virginia Tech after she provided 81 goals this season. She scored 250 times during her entire high school tenure. Previous: 9

10. Bishop England (S.C.), 18-0

The Battling Bishops earned a South Carolina state title after defeating opposition by a combined margin of 337-27. Frances Poch and Elisabeth Tausig each contributed 105 points this season for Bishop England. Both players graduate this year leaving Henley Bredemann as the program’s top returning scorer. Previous: 10

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