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Inside Lacrosse Level Nine Recap and Standouts!

NXT Lacrosse hosted its annual Level Nine fall tournament on Nov. 19, with a tangible increase in intensity and high-level lacrosse on display for all in attendance. The invite-only event showcased top 2027 teams from around the country as they competed for A and B division championship titles. Kate Henwood, Executive VP of NXT Girls Lacrosse, touched on the fierce competition.

Level Nine is always competitive. But this year, the contenders brought a whole new level of grit," she said. "These teams understood what was on the line, and you could feel the intensity in the air, especially during playoffs.”

Downingtown's United Sports Training Center accommodated more than 50 teams with seven fields running games simultaneously. A sunny 50-degree day felt more like 40 degrees with the wind chill, but with the new indoor bubble, a handful of teams got a break from the cold throughout the day. The indoor space also served as the semifinal games and championship play spot.

Division A Bracket:
There was no shortage of competition in the 2027 A Division. The first round of playoffs consisted of eight teams for four games. Each team that advanced won by just a single goal.

  • M&D Black 3, Aces Elite 2
  • STEPS Elite Navy 4, LI Liberty 3
  • Sky Walkers Blue 4, Mass Elite Red 3
  • LXC Black 5, HHH 4

After a thrilling 3OT win over HHH, LXC Black fell to Sky Walkers Navy, 7-4.

M&D Black narrowly fought off STEPS Elite Navy. The Maryland team’s defense was able to hold STEPS on their final possession, earning the 3-2 win.

Championship: M&D Black 4, Sky Walkers Blue 3
Two Baltimore rivals entered the championship game undefeated and ready to fight for in-state bragging rights. Sky Walkers entered the game with semi-fresh legs, having a one-game break between their win over LXC, compared to M&D Black, whose schedule came out to back-to-back bracket play.

The short break proved helpful as Sky Walkers dominated the first minute. Samantha Collins nabbed the opening draw off the circle, her first of three of the game. Sky Walkers got on the board first with a goal from attacker Caitlin Scruggs.

Collins tallied her second draw control that soon turned into caused turnover for M&D. A hard drive resulted in a free-position opportunity for the red and white. Molly Robinson kept Sky Walkers in the lead with a beautiful shoulder save.

Sky Walker's defensive efforts converted into a goal for Kelsey Pozdol, who executed her free-position opportunity after drawing a yellow card. Sky Walkers led 2-0 and returned to the draw circle player-up.

Despite losing the draw, Collins, for the third time and facing a player-down challenge, M&D dug deep to cause their second caused turnover of the game and run out the yellow card. With about 12 minutes left in the game, Taylor Fique found the back of the net to pull M&D within one.

Parker Kitchel beat out Collins for M&D’s first draw control. However, Collins' perfectly timed back-check sent the ball back in favor of Sky Walkers, where Marisa Dixon cleanly slipped by her defender before hitting Collins for a goal. The blue and white moved to 3-1.

The first 10 minutes belonged to Sky Walkers, but the final 10 minutes was all M&D.

Cameron Vasile’s first draw control resulted in a goal from Fique off the feed from Charlotte Vaughan. M&D was back within one at a score of 3-2.

Another great save by Sky Walker’s Robinson kept M&D at bay momentarily. M&D earned the round and went on to quickly tally a low lefty goal from Victoria Mrugalski.

Even at 3-3, each team had a scoring opportunity before Caroline Cudzilo put M&D up 4-3. With four minutes left.

M&D’s Fique secured the final draw that allowed her team to run two minutes off the clock before an unforced error gave the ball to Sky Walkers.

The ball found its way to Scruggs to work within the 8-meter, eventually drawing a foul and was given a free-position opportunity. The ball rang off the pipe in a devastating fashion, but the possession stayed with Sky Walkers for another chance. M&D keeper Torunn Spencer gobbled up the final shot with seconds left.

M&D’s 4-3 win earned them the Division A Level Nine Championship title.

 

STANDOUTS:
 

Regan Bieberbach | G | All American Aim | Bishop Eustace, N.J.
Bieberbach made her presence known on the field with back-to-back saves that shifted the game's momentum in favor of her team. She made essential stops using her quick feet and stellar ball-tracking ability.

Ellie Bracken | A | LXC | Middlesex, Mass.
Bracken has impressive speed and can push the ball in transition with what seems like ease. On the offensive side of the ball, she plays smart. Reading the defense and capitalizing off defensive slides with perfectly timed cuts. She has a powerful shot and is the player her teammates look to to get the job done. 

Siena Casale | M | STEPS NJ | Pingry, N.J.
Casale is small in stature, but her feistiness and aggression surely make up for the height discrepancy in a match-up. Offensively, she is shifty and explosive. She knows how to free her hands and fire the ball around her defender. Her passion for lacrosse shines through her play. She is consistent, reliable, and the teammate you trust with the ball when you need a goal.

Samantha Collins | M | Sky Walkers | Archbishop Spalding, Md.
Collins is a do-it-all midfielder who excels in the hustle plays. On the circle, she is quick to read and react to the draw-takers' movements, being on top of the ball the second it is in the air. Defensively, she hunts down the ball, timing a check or getting in a scuffle to come out with the ball. Offensively, she is sneaky. Quick with cuts, she can find the cage off a give-and-go or back-door cut.

Alli Denzel | M | NXT | Southern Lehigh, Pa.
Denzel is athletic with a smooth stick. Her ability to handle the ball and run the field make her an obvious standout. She has crisp passes and clean dodges and can finish a shot with power and placement. She quickly gets down to the defensive end, displaying great fight and desire to earn back the ball.

Mia DiBenedetto | D | HHH | Penn Charter, Pa.
DiBenedetto is a standout defender as an individual and in a team unit. She will shut off the ball from opportunities to feed or dodge. She knows when to slide off-ball to help defense and reacts quickly to groundballs. She is fundamentally sound in transition, playing controlled and confident to get the ball to the other end.

Marisa Dixon | M | Sky Walkers
Dixon is a spark of energy on the field. Defensively, she can anticipate the play so much that she dictates the opposing offense's decisions. Offensively, she can push the transition to create unsettled situations, proving she is fearless in taking the ball to the cage herself.

Kendall Elsasser | G | Phantastix | Conestoga, Pa.
Elasser is a very agile and athletic goalkeeper who does a phenomenal job of getting her body behind the ball. She has quick hands, reacting without hesitation to the ball from anywhere on the field. She is most impressive with low shots, and her ability to read the shooter and act quickly when dropping to the ground for a save came up big for her teammates when they needed it.

Taylor Fique | M | M&D | Manchester Valley, Md.
Fique plays poised and confident on the field. Defensively, she can quickly read and react to an interception or check opportunity. She challenges the ball with forceful on-ball defense. Offensively, she handles pressure well with the ball; she has an impeccable shot placement. Fique is a complete difference-maker on the field with her end-to-end play and the addition of her draw-taking abilities.

Marley Rose Gonsalves | D | Capital | St. Stephan’s & St. Agnes, Va.
Gonsalves is a reliable defender who displayed impressive one-on-one defense. She can force a bad shot or a poor pass, getting the ball to the ground for a chance at a 50/50 ball. In transition, she is comfortable in both hands and can easily rely on her speed to get the ball to the offensive end.

Natalie Haraschak | M | All-American Aim | Cherokee, N.J.
Harasachak has both speed and quickness, which makes her a force on the draw. Her first step off the whistle is dominant; once she gets the ball, it is game over until it is on the offensive end. Haraschak has strong field vision and game sense that makes her a threat on the offensive side. Defensively, her quick feet come back into play, making it very challenging for an opponent to get by her.

Jayda Jackson | D | Aces | Lancaster, N.Y. 
Jackson is a relentless defender who refuses to let up on ball pressure. She plays solely to earn the ball back for her team. She works to take away vision for a feed but also the dodging lane. She quickly recovers from a misstep, displaying her fight that the play is not over until the ball is in the back of the cage. In transition, she is confident carrying the ball with solid stickwork and can make the smart play.

Mason Maher | A | Capital | Sherwood, Va.
Maher is a tall, athletic attacker who generates impressive power in her dodge. Maher’s ability to challenge her defender often ends in her favor, with beautifully well-placed shots to the back of the cage.

Carleigh Mascis | A | CT Grizzles | Darien, Conn.
Mascis was a clear standout on the field, a quick and smooth attacker with top-tier stick work. The crease attacker plays patient and composed with the ball, delivering a series of fakes before releasing a shot to the space she created. She can score from the lowest of angles, unfazed by defensive pressure.

Delaney Miklus | M | M&D Shore | Caesar Rodney, Del.
Miklus had speed that dominated transition play. Her height allows her to throw quick passes over the defense to her open teammates in fast-break situations. She is constantly moving off-ball, whether to get open herself or distract and create for her teammates. Defensively, she uses her length to deny in-range passes and take away vision from the shooter.

Molly Robison | G | Sky Walkers | Broadneck, Md.
Robison was a huge factor in Sky Walkers' successful day of getting to championship play. She makes the saves she should while also making the saves that shock the crowd and ultimately shift the game’s momentum. The way the team can rally behind her proves the trust and confidence she has built with her squad.

Sloane Stevens | D | Sky Walkers | McDonogh, Md. 
Stevens is a strong defender who uses her quick feet and athletic ability to maintain lockdown on-ball defense. She is communicative and quickly reacts to the most dangerous player on the field to shut down offensive opportunities from unfolding.

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