By BOB YORK –
A chorus of “Sweet Caroline” may have been in order during this spring’s awards assembly when Caroline Ashford (14) was summoned by her coach, Allison DiNardo, to “come on down,” and receive her second straight David C. Haviland Award. The trophy is annually presented to the Most Valuable Player on the Deerfield Academy girls lacrosse team.
Ashford, who earned back-to-back All-American status as a junior and senior and was a three-time nominee to the Western New England Prep School Girls Lacrosse League All-Star Team, wrapped up a four-year career for Deerfield this season with a big green bow–then took a big bow to acknowledge the applause for her accomplishments. The Harvard-bound standout dropped the curtain on her prep school playing days as one of the most prolific scorers in school annals with 198 points on 139 goals and 59 assists.
“Caroline was certainly an offensive force during her career here at Deerfield,” said DiNardo of Ashford’s knack of putting lacrosse balls into the back of opponents’ nets, as she topped this spring’s scoring charts with 35 goals and 15 assists for 50 points. “She always drew the opposition’s top defensive player and you’d often find teams double teaming her in an effort to keep her from scoring but no matter what they did to negate her, it didn’t work.”
Ashford wasn’t the Big Green’s only all-star selection this spring, however. Two of its players would earn postseason plaudits, but for entirely different reasons. While Ashford was running up the numbers on the scoreboard at one end of the field, Elliot Gilbert (16) was down at the opposite end keeping opponents’ scoring to a minimum.
Gilbert split time in goal during her freshman season, but took over the chores on a full-time basis this spring and although the Big Green managed only a 5-8 record, she formed a cornerstone DiNardo can build her teams around over the next few seasons. Plus, with a little help from her offense, Deerfield could have easily flipped its record to read 8-5. It dropped three of its games by a scant five goals, as Minnechaug Regional High School prevailed, 11-10, while Choate and Northfield Mount Hermon rang up back-to-back 11-9 victories early in the season.
“Elli’s a terrific goalie and she came up time and time again throughout the season with critical saves for us,” said DiNardo. “She played an important role in our 17-14 victory over Taft, a team that was previously undefeated at the time. She was key in our (15-13) win over Berkshire, too. She faced an awful lot of shots in that game … especially late in the game … but she stood tall and we prevailed.”
Then there was the Andover game, which likely proved to be the highlight of the season for the Big Green. “Elli had an outstanding day and came up with a number of terrific saves,” said DiNardo of a 17-9 victory over the Big Blue, “which marked the first time in six years that we had beaten them.”
This spring’s awards assembly didn’t begin and end with Ashford’s trip to the podium, however. Allison Dewey (14), a midfielder, was summoned to collect the Coaches Award for what the Big Green midfielder brought to the game over the past four years. Kate Swindell (14), meanwhile, received this year’s Unsung Hero Award.
“Allison, as well as Caroline and Lili (Brown) served as our tri-captains this season,” said DiNardo, “and their leadership proved invaluable. We had six seniors on this year’s team, but we also had three juniors, nine sophomores and three freshmen so, with more than half the team being either freshmen or sophomores, we needed strong leadership and they supplied it.”
Another member of this year’s senior class who drew praise from her team as well as elsewhere was Kylie Davis (14). Davis was one of just five Academic All-Americans from the Western Massachusetts Chapter of U.S. Lacrosse to be honored for her play on the field as well as her outstanding academic work and the contributions she has made to school life.
Brown, who, like Ashford, was situated at attack, led the team in assists, while Julia Hamilton (14) drew praise for her play as well.
In addition to Gilbert returning to stand between the pipes next spring, DiNardo should have plenty of other experience on next year’s roster to help the program get back in the race. Up front, Maggie Savage (15), who was voted next year’s captain, returns to her attack chores, as does Kathryn Grennon, who was a rare starter as a freshman. Rachel Sit (16) and Elizabeth Growney (16), who lost some playing time this season due to a knee injury, are scheduled to return to their duties as midfielders.