Wurzburger Leads American Heritage-Delray to Title; Wins South Player of the Year

PHOTO BY GREGORY A. SHEMITZ

Caitlyn Wurzburger scored 105 goals and 116 assists this season to help American Heritage-Delray (Fla.) to a Florida state title in 2018.


Like so many players who excel in their sport, Caitlyn Wurzburger came to the game through family.

Her father, Rob, played college lacrosse at Maryland and remains near the top of the record book for career goals scored. So, she started early with a stick in her hand by the time she was 5.

What she has done since then is anything but ordinary.

A sophomore at American Heritage-Delray, Wurzburger has been a varsity starter since the seventh grade. She has been an All-American since the eighth grade, earning that honor for the third time this spring when she scored 105 goals and had 116 assists to lead her team to its first Florida High School Athletic Association state championship in May.

Wurzburger, who committed to Syracuse in the eighth grade, is the Brine/US Lacrosse Magazine South Girls’ Player of the Year.

“She’s a lax rat,” coach John McClain said. “She works so hard. She’s up at 6 in the morning on the wall at her house. Then she goes to school. During the season, she does speed and agility work in the morning. So she’s working out like crazy. She’s a Division I athlete.”

Wurzburger credits her dad, among others, for her work ethic.

“No one is good when they start,” she said. “I’m not a natural, though I’m not afraid to put the hard work in. I have to give credit to my dad and my mom [Leslie] and my family, my coach, my team. I keep putting the hard work in, but I still feel like I have so much to learn.”

Her 221 points this season was no aberration. Wurzburger has topped 200 in each of the last three seasons and has amassed 747 (363 goals, 383 assists) in four years.

Certainly, some of those points have come against inferior competition. Florida’s schedules are structured in such a way that district teams must play each other. But McClain put together an ambitious schedule this year, and Wurzburger may have been at her best in a string of games against such top competition as Florida power St. Thomas Aquinas, 2018 Georgia champ Milton and nationally-ranked teams Bishop Ireton (Va.), Glenelg Country (Md.) and St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (Va.).

“Milton she had six goals and five assists, that’s pretty incredible,” McClain said. “Against St. Stephen’s & Agnes she had four goals, three assists. Against Glenelg she had six goals and six assists. That day was a doubleheader, and she had three goals and six assists against Olympia. She had five goals and four assists against Holy Cross (Md.).”

In American Heritage’s lone loss of the year, 10-9 to Bishop Ireton, Wurzburger had three goals and three assists.

It was an impressive run for her and her team, which finished the season 23-1 and ranked among the top 10 nationally.

“For me, I just come out every day and play as hard as I can,” Wurzburger said. “I don’t care who I’m playing. My points in those games, it was what the team was doing all season. We worked hard and we practiced hard. If I get a goal off, it’s because my friend drew a double team. If I pass it, that means someone else made a great cut. The little things all come together. If it’s a great team, that means we played hard, it means our team stepped up.”

That run did prepare both Wurzburger, who always faced a variety of defensive strategies to try to contain her, and the Stallions for their run to the state title. The team, which played its first year in 2015 when Wurzburger was in seventh grade, reached the state semis in 2016 before bowing out to state runner-up Vero Beach, the Stallions made the regional finals last spring.

But this year was the first time the Stallions played anyone from outside of Florida to improve their schedule.

“We gained a lot of confidence in those games,” Wurzburger said. “Those were really, really good teams and we were beating them. It helped us going into the playoffs.”

Winning the state title was everything for Wurzburger.

“To me, it felt like the routine of waking up early every day, of it being Friday and not being able to go out with my friends, paid off,” she said. “It meant the world. To get to that point ...We had been so close before, and we did it. It’s unreal, to be honest.

“I spend every day with these girls at school and at the field. It’s just seeing everyone accomplish something they’ve been working so hard together for. I can’t put it into words. It felt like being on top of the world. This is it. It’s the happiest part of my life, to see that goal come true.”

BRINE/US LACROSSE
SOUTH GIRLS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR

CAITLYN WURZBURGER

School: American Heritage-Delray (Fla.)

Year: Sophomore

Position: Attacker

Stats: 105 goals, 116 assists

Coach Alex Pagnotta: “It’s a special team that worked hard. She was the epicenter of it all. It takes a team to get a state title, so it was everyone. But she is one exceptional ball player.”

Also considered: Elizabeth Farnsworth, Hutchison (Tenn.); Carly Steinlauf, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.); Anna Winkeler, Dallas Episcopal (Texas); Brianna Carasquillo, Milton (Ga.); Grace New, Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.); Lexi Patton, Vero Beach (Fla.); Ainsley Thurston, Lake Highland Prep (Fla.); Elizabeth Harrison, Lassiter (Ga.); Erin Bakes, Ransom Everglades (Fla.).







NIKE/US LACROSSE
SOUTH GIRLS’ TOP 10

SEASON REWIND

1. American Heritage-Delray (Fla.), 23-1

The Stallions claimed their first Florida High School Athletic Association state championship with a 10-7 win over Lake Highland Prep. Standout Caitlyn Wurzburger, who scored 221 points, was just a sophomore. The other top five scorers all return next year, too, including Allegra Catalano (83 goals, 50 assists), Kylie Hazen (46g, 36a), Sara Palmisano (43g, 28a) and Megan Mangines (27g, 9a).

2. Hutchison (Tenn.), 19-0

The Sting won their eighth consecutive Tennessee Girls Lacrosse Association state championship with an 8-6 win over Ensworth. All-Americans Elizabeth Farnsworth, Jordan Groover and Macy McCullough all graduate. In total, Hutchison will lose eight seniors. Another change the Sting must endure is a changing of the coaching staff. David Gearhardt is relinquishing his position as head coach, but will remain with the team.

3. Milton (Ga.), 18-5

The Eagles beat Lassiter 11-10 to claim their 12th Georgia High School Association 6A-7A state championship and seventh in the last eight years. While they will lose several seniors, this year’s team had nine freshmen on the roster and began the year with 10 new starters in the lineup. It’s safe to say that coach Tim Godby will be up to the task of restructuring the lineup next season.

4. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), 18-2

The Raiders’ season ended with a 16-4 loss to No. 1-ranked American Heritage-Delray in an FHSAA regional championship game. Both of their losses this season were to American Heritage, which won its first state title. St. Thomas loses a number of seniors, perhaps most notably goalie Morgan Lusk, but return several key players including attacker Carly Steinlauf, who led the team with 76 goals and 46 assists. Attacker Ellie Riegner and midfielders Kaitlyn Michaud and Caroline Stefans also return.

5. Lassiter (Ga.), 18-3

The Trojans were state runners-up to Milton and will return much of that squad next year. They will be led by Elizabeth Harrison, who had a team-high 48 goals, 128 draw wins and 109 controls. She is part of a strong class of rising juniors.

6. Vero Beach (Fla.), 19-5

The Fighting Indians advanced to the state semifinals before losing to eventual champ American Heritage-Delray. The loss was the only in-state setback for Vero. Four of its five losses were to teams ranked in the national top 25. The Indians will lose a talented and deep senior class that filled key spots throughout the lineup. That includes goalie Lexie Patton.

7. Cardinal Gibbons (N.C.), 18-3

The Crusaders won their third consecutive North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship. Top scorers Grace New (53g, 25a) and Ella Reaves Vaughan (50g, 16a) will return next year, along with Caroline Kimel and Caroline Mullahy, but several players graduate, including Grace Nelson (33g, 10a) and Elizabeth Wilson (19g).

8. Hockaday School (Texas), 18-7

The Daisies picked up their fourth Texas Girls High School Lacrosse state title with an 18-16 win over No. 1-seeded Kinkaid in the final. It capped an impressive run for sixth-seeded Hockaday, which played an ambitious schedule with seven games against out-of-state opponents. The Daisies last won a state title in 2012.

9. Charlotte Catholic (N.C.), 14-5

The Cougars’ strong late-season run ended in the NCHSAA championship game with a 14-8 loss to No. 7 Cardinal Gibbons. Leading scorer Kylie Skovira (53g, 12a) returns, along with Kaitlin Coleman (38g) and Caileigh Brady (29g, 10a).

10. Cambridge (Ga.), 16-5

The Bears advanced to the third round of the GHSA playoffs before losing to eventual state runner-up Lassiter in a closely contested game. To get back here next season, the Bears will have to overcome the loss of 11 seniors.

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