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Chardon girls lacrosse: Hilltoppers building on regional runner-up finish with new names in important places

Mar. 23—Last year was historic for the Chardon girls lacrosse team. The Hilltoppers posted the most wins in school history and advanced to their first regional final to add a trophy to the school's extensive showcase.

But it was a runner-up trophy as they fell to the Division II state runner-up Hathaway Brown.

This year, there are some holes for the Hilltoppers to fill as they try to replicate the run. They had three of their top five scorers graduate.

Coach Alison Platz is replacing players such as Stella Parrish and Grace Darone. But she is not looking to just plug in new players into the same roles. Rather, she said every team has its own strengths and weaknesses.

"We definitely took some of the fire we ended last year with and tried to start from there as opposed to going back and trying to stay where we were," Alison said. "We want to stay super competitive and keep things going from there. After the Hathaway Brown loss, the message was we never want the season to end but the way we handled some of the tougher games and some of the adversity, that made us stronger. It's important for them to recognize what they've created."

Chardon has junior Payton Platz, who led the team last season with 56 goals, 18 assists, 24 takeaways and 70 draws won, along with 46 ground balls. She leads from the midfield, which also has junior Elle Deszczykiewicz, who forced 23 takeways and created 32 ground balls.

Payton said with the new players on the attacking half of the field, they don't want to get too advanced too soon. Rather, they are focusing on teaching the game along with learning everyone's strengths and weaknesses.

That early learning helped the Hilltoppers in their season opener, a 16-3 victory over St. Joseph Academy.

"There's a lot of new players but everyone has the drive to keep the type of play from last year going," Payton Platz said. "We hold each other accountable. We work hard and are pushing ourselves to not just stay at the level that got us to the regional final last year but to also be able to take that next step."

Payton Platz emerged as a leader last season, but that role is new for Deszczykiewicz and Gray Tyminski. They are growing accustomed to their new roles.

They are learning how to juggle their responsibilities on the attack as well as helping the new players. Deszczykiewicz credits the new players' willingness to learn in their roles.

"We lost a lot of seniors but we've done a really good job with the returners keeping the energy and building the energy," Deszczykiewicz said. "A lot of the new girls are coming in and wanting to learn how we play and we're all meshing really well. We're working as a team and not as individuals and that is really helping."

While there are new faces on the attack, Chardon features an experienced defense, guided by senior goalie Makenna Ricketts.

The returning players for Chardon don't just have chemistry from the past few seasons. Many of them started playing the sport at the same time.

Tyminski knows that having those deep roots in the sport is a great start for any team coming off of a run like they had a season ago.

"I've been playing with the same girls since I was 9 and we have that chemistry already which always makes it easier," Tyminski said. "We don't all have the same experience level or all have been on all of the same teams with some of the newer players. But we have a good foundation with the work we've been doing already. It really helps in the early days of the season."

Chardon dropped its second game to Walsh Jesuit, 13-2. But Alison Platz has been impressed with the strides the young players have made.

Players including freshmen Addison Deszczykiewicz and Riley McKenna are ready for the challenges more experienced teams bring to the field. Allison Plaz said players like that will have their impact grow as the season goes.

"We've had quite a few girls immediately come in and take over," Alison said. "They help hold each other accountable from the get-go. It can be a little hard to do that with some new pieces but they haven't had an issue. It's been a very helpful start for us. We need to fill the holes quickly and getting everyone caught up to speed as fast as we can. We need the leadership to carry over into games as well and that will be a major benefactor for us again."

The Hilltoppers next face visiting Avon Lake on March 25.