In a season filled with unprecedented challenges, Kara Cooke and Hilton Head High rose to the top of the Lowco girls lacrosse ranks in 2021. Now, with a group of determined seniors leading the way, the Seahawks are looking to prove that last year’s Cinderella run to the SCHSL 4A semifinals wasn’t a fluke.
There are many reasons to believe that it’s not and that Cooke’s squad might be even more dangerous this year. The Seahawks have taken care of business against Lowco competition so far this year, outscoring May River, Beaufort High, and Bluffton by a count of 34-7. But they’ll face their biggest challenge Thursday at the Nest when they take on a talented Lucy Beckham side that bested the Seahawks 14-8 back in February. It’s an opportunity to make a midseason statement and continue the climb up the Region 4A standings.
The quick upward journey of Cooke’s squad is even more impressive when you consider the hurdles this team surmounted. Due to the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seahawks weren’t able to conduct a full preseason practice schedule in 2021. With little time to prepare an inexperienced roster, the pandemic made Cooke’s difficult job even tougher. But everyone on the roster bought in, and the veterans stepped up to shock Philip Simmons and A.C. Flora to reach the Class 4A final four. With a full preseason slate now under their belt in 2022, the Seahawks are right back to their peak form from a year ago.
“We’ve just really been so grateful to have more of a normal season and a normal preseason,” Cooke said. “While we were grateful to have a season last year, this year feels like time is a gift because we had a whole preseason and were able to pick up where we left off and start building.”
The ‘Hawks are led by star forward and reigning All-Lowco Player of the Year Anna Ferrebee, who became Cooke’s first player to commit and sign to play at the collegiate level when she penned with Erskine College in February. With the stress of the college search process behind her, Ferrebee is playing loose and with confidence. Through eight games, the senior has racked up a whopping 28 goals and nine assists for a team-high 37 points.
“Anna is a huge spark,” Cooke said. “Her speed, stick work, and her ability to put the ball in the back of the net are just tremendous, and she’s been able to do it when we need it in those big moments. In the playoffs, she stepped up and scored some big goals. The fact that she’s signed with Erskine and has that decision done has freed her up even more to really just go after it and play with confidence.”
It may be individuals who score the goals, scoop up the groundballs, and make the saves, but Cooke always refers to her group of players as a collective unit. After all, it takes a series of crisp passes, intuitive off-ball movements, and a well-executed shot to put the ball in the back of the net. It’s been a team effort across the field for the Seahawks, and it all starts with an experienced and determined group of seniors.
Bailey Olive didn’t pick up a lacrosse stick until the start of last season, but the now-senior has become an indispensable piece of the Seahawks’ high-octane offense with her superior footwork and stick-handling skills combined with her unmatched drive and work ethic. Sommer Chiasera has taken charge of a defense that has allowed just under six goals per game, and Sarah Kate Shupp continues to produce with key points in the biggest moments. There are few players more valuable than one who puts the team first, and Allie Jeffrey has done it throughout her Seahawk career while always finding ways to hype up her squad on and off the field.
On defense, Cooke tells her team to “embrace chaos” and stay focused no matter what breaks or lapses come its way. The result is a scrappy group that will fight at all costs to earn stops and do each individual job to achieve the collective goal. Each player carries a team-first mentality, and it has clearly shown itself over the first half of the season. Whether it’s Chiasera’s experience or the basketball knowledge and hustle of Emilie Fister, the Seahawks have relied on the unbreakable intensity shown by each team member on the field.
Every time they met with adversity last season, the Seahawks found a way to let it fuel them and elevate their play. After a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Bluffton last March, Cooke’s squad shifted into another gear, winning eight of its next nine games including a 14-5 rout in the rematch with the Bobcats. That result alone showed the resiliency and the will of a team that would stop at nothing to defy expectations.
Now the Seahawks find themselves in a similar spot heading into a key region clash on Thursday with Lucy Beckham. And the Bengals will certainly see a different team than the group that dropped a 14-8 decision in its region opener. It’s a game that can shape the trajectory of a Seahawk squad ready to turn a setback into another memorable spring at the Nest.
“We definitely bookmarked this game after the last one,” Cooke said. “Not overlooking any of the teams we’ve played since then, but knowing that we were trying to use each game to build and get better. I asked the girls to think back about their mindset and how they felt after we finished that game at Beckham, and it was very much a confident one. Even though we lost that game, we walked away knowing that we could run with them and broke down a little of the fear factor we had playing them. It’s a fun challenge that I think the offense, defense, and transition game is embracing to see what we can do to take it to them on Thursday night at home.”
By Wes Kerr
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