Q&A with Blessed Trinity girls coach Liz McFarland
The Blessed Trinity Lady Titans are the AJC’s top team in A-5A and own the state’s No. 1 overall ranking in the LaxPower.com RPI rankings. They’re 13-3 and coming off the first state title in program history, which came via a late comeback in the championship game against a Kell team seeking three straight A-5A titles. As the Lady Titans head into the postseason seeking back-to-back championships, AJC lacrosse beat writer Adam Krohn spoke with their coach, Liz McFarland, about the season.
Krohn: What’s the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s championship team?
McFarland: Last year, our lineup was made up primarily of seniors and we had a lot of depth made up of juniors and sophomores that stepped up. We had 10 seniors and all of them were starters. This year we have seven seniors, with five of them starters and the remainder are juniors and sophomores, with one freshman. We feel like we have a good mix of talent.
K: Last year the Lady Titans won the first title in program history. Was that something that came out of nowhere, or was it more something the program was building up to?
M: We were building up to it. We were consistently reaching the Sweet 16 and the last four years we were either in the Elite Eight or Final Four. Last year, we felt pretty strongly that we had a chance and the girls really believed in themselves. We had worked hard all season, and we beat Westminster in the Elite Eight, which was awesome because they’re a long-time rival of ours.
With Kell in the finals, we were trailing by 5 with 12 minutes left, and the girls dug deep and never gave up. We scored seven unanswered goals. It was such a tremendous, awesome feeling. That was our first year winning our area and we worked a long time to get to that point. Last year’s group, I think from the get-go — they’d been denied (a title) four years — had not just the work ethic, but believed so much in themselves. They had the tenacity and dug deep, and they were in extremely good shape and had the endurance. It was a special group of seniors.
This year, they want it again and they’ve been working hard to get there.
K: Despite being the defending champs and playing a highly competitive schedule, the Lady Titans weren’t the state’s No. 1 team in the AJC poll, even after beating then-No. 1 Westminster 21-8, which held on to the top ranking despite the loss. Eventually, you moved into the No. 1 ranking, but do you feel your team is overlooked, especially considering you’re the defending state champs?
M: I don’t think we get overlooked. I just think we have an amazing powerhouse down the road with Milton, and that lacrosse in the whole North Fulton area has the funding, enthusiasm and followers, so then you get down to our small private school, which relies on athletes coming in from families who make the decision for their kids to receive a Catholic education. We don’t recruit, and our athletes come from feeder programs based on the district they live in. Lassiter is a good program, and so is Pope and Walton, and we’re surrounded by great public schools with good feeder programs. So we’re not overlooked, we’re just not as large of a powerhouse. But we can definitely compete with the best.
K: A lot of programs use spring break to travel and play in highly competitive events. The Lady Titans took the break off. Can you talk about that?
M: I think when spring break comes, everyone is ready for some time off. I think vacations are good. We never really talked about going out of state. At the beginning of the season, we played two Florida teams (Olympia and Ponte Vedra) at Walton. I was also cognizant of the amount of money it takes to travel the team and that can be expensive over spring break. I think it’s good that teams do it, but it’s not a requirement for us. We benefit from the break and then we hit the ground running. I try to get area play out of the way before the break so that we know where we stand, then I schedule tough out-of-area opponents to prepare us for the playoffs. That recipe has worked for us.
K: How do you feel about the team going into the postseason?
M: Really good. We’ve found our groove, we’re comfortable with the way we play as a team and we’re looking forward to the playoffs. I feel like we can go far, but we have to take it one game at a time because I don’t want us to be overconfident. And you can over-prepare also. We’re excited about closing out the regular season with beating Northview (19-14 on Friday; Northview is ranked No. 6 in 6A-7A), playing (No. 7 in 6A-7A) Cambridge on Tuesday, and GAC on Thursday. Knock on wood, everyone is healthy now. We have a good starting lineup, good sub lines and everyone has embraced their role, whether it’s a starter, sub or a cheerleader on the sidelines. We’re all focused, and sometimes that’s hard.
K: Who are your players that will compete at the next level?
M: Mary Markwordt (senior, Duke); Sarah Flatt (senior, Stetson); Izzy Lopez (senior; Auburn-club team).