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Girls lax: State team of year

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Award is first for Vikings in 40 years

In the waning moments of the state championship girls lacrosse game last May, Raelynn Grogan, Cape's Irish princess, sneaked down the St. Andrew's sideline and screamed at her goalie, "Hey, Leigh Ann! That's what I'm talking about!"

Seconds later it was full-tilt public school bedlam as shirtless and senseless students with torsos painted in school colors stormed the field in unbridled and unabashed celebration. Cape had won the 2009 girls lacrosse state championship 11-7 over St. Andrew's, me first public school to break through since the tournament began in 1999.

The Vikings had reached the final game with a nail-biting 9-8 win over St. Mark's in the semifinals two days earlier. The Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association, now in its 61st year, on Tuesday, Jan. 19, announced the Cape Henlopen girls lacrosse team had been voted Delaware team of the year for 2009, an award that draws from sports across all levels of competition, through college.

The honor is the first for a Cape team in the 40-year history of the school district.

"I just lit up when I heard we won this award because it is just really the coolest thing ever," said Hilary Merlo, a senior captain on last year's team. "I love our team and the Cape lacrosse family, so this is just really nice for us."

During the last two seasons under head coach P.J. Kesmodel and assistant Bill Lingo, the Viking lacrosse team has amassed a record of 31-4-2. Kesmodel is the only coach in the country to win a state championship in two different states and to win state titles in both boys and girls lacrosse in Maryland.

"This is such exciting news, hearing we are the first Cape team to be awarded such an honor," said Kara Voss, now at University of Delaware. "I proudly wear my championship ring every day.

"As P.J. said, winning a state title is something you will always remember, and no one can ever take that from you. Thanks to P.J.'s coaching, support and determination that made this possible for us, and I am so thankful to have them. P.J. pushed every one of us to our full potential, and thanks to him, he made us champions."

Coach Kesmodel had all the stats for the 2009 team including most wins by a Cape team (16), beating Tower Hill for the first time as well as champion Worcester Prep and having six different players score 30 or more points.

The Vikings had four first-team All-State players in Leigh Ann Redefer, Kara Voss, Alec Perry and Caroline Judge. Kaci Coveleski, Raelynn Grogan and Meg Bartley were second team. Hilary Merlo was an Academic All-American.

"We never missed a day of practice because of bad weather and never practiced inside," Kesmole said. "And we did things to make it fun, including a crazy hat contest, short versus tall inter-squad game, candy bars for left-handed goals and taking a charge, face painting before games and the very popular Leprechaun Lacrosse Lunacy Day on Saint Patrick's Day when coach Bill Lingo emerged as the leprechaun."

Lindsey Shook responded to the team of the year news: "Wow! I just want to say thank you to all the parents, families, friends and businesses in the community who gave us support throughout the season. It was such an exciting season! Each of us had our sights set on the ultimate goal, but we played one game at a time.

"We worked extremely hard to reach the final game and win the title of state champions, and I believe everyone on the team earned it!"

Leigh Ann Redefer, a four-year Cape starter awaiting her freshman season at Mary Washington College, said,

"This is such an honor! I never take my championship ring off. The ring means the world to me and everything it represents. Hard work, dedication, good sportsmanship, teamwork, drive, passion, I could go on and on.

"You should see my dorm room; there are team pictures all over my walls and pictures from the night we won. While hanging out with my fellow seniors Kara Voss, Hilary Merlo, Lindsey Shook and Raelynn Grogan during our winter break, I realized no matter how far apart life takes us, we will always have an undeniable bond. To be chosen as the top sports team of 2009 is very unexpected but very much appreciated to say the least. Without the coaches who believed in us from the very beginning and the parents who supported us through the good and the bad, we would not have been as successful."

The annual awards banquet will be held Thursday, March 25.

Copyright 2010 Cape Gazette, Lewes, Delaware. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 19, 2010

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