The Girls Preparatory School lacrosse team has succeeded everywhere it has gone this year, but an April 13 trip to Atlanta did more than add another victory to a growing total in a historic season for the Chattanooga program.
When the Bruisers came out of a back-and-forth match against Lovett — one of Georgia's oldest girls' lacrosse programs — with an 11-10 victory, they realized their potential more than ever.
"Beating Lovett was really rewarding," senior attacker Anna Beth Coffman said. "We weren't expecting to win, but we went on to the field and were like, 'We've got this.' Our teamwork is something we have grown a ton in this year and has really helped us have a great season."
"Great" could be an understatement; phenomenal is a better way to describe the Bruisers' unblemished season.
With a mixture of talent across all grades — the team's seven seniors include captains Coffman, Kenzie Grisar and Annie Sanford — GPS finished the regular season 16-0 after beating Signal Mountain 19-1 on Friday. Next week the Bruisers will begin postseason play with the Tennessee Girls Lacrosse Association's Division II state quarterfinals.
"It's really special seeing just how far we have come," said Grisar, who will continue her lacrosse career this fall at Berry College, an NCAA Division III program in Rome, Georgia. "This season has been incredible for all of us. I feel like we can go really far as long as we continue to lift each other up and play together. We have a lot of weapons on this team."
In an 18-5 rout of Baylor on April 23, a GPS defense led by Grisar, Savannah Stout and Anna von Kessler helped spark the program's first victory over its archrival in six years.
Sofia Bean, Evie Jackson, CJ Polk, Gracie Pritchett and Reagan Ziegler are others who have starred for GPS, which has six players with at least 13 goals this season. The Bruisers have outscored their opponents 274-63 and are ranked No. 88 in the nation by MaxPreps.com.
"We have players from every grade who play and impact this team in great ways," Sanford said. "We have a strong senior class but also have freshman who have made big contributions as well, which is really cool to see. We are excited to see what we can do in the postseason."
GPS has won 19 straight regular-season games dating to 2019. After having what looked to be a stellar 2020 season canceled after two games due to the coronavirus pandemic, being on the field together again has meant even more.
"Our senior year has been really crazy, so lacrosse is one of the things we have gotten to have that has been pretty normal," Sanford said. "Just being out here with everyone is really fun. We are working really hard to compete for the state championship and having a lot of fun at the same time."
Lacrosse has grown in the Chattanooga area in recent years, part of a trend noted as occurring across the country over the past two decades, and GPS first sponsored the sport in 2005. With three more wins this spring, the Bruisers can celebrate the program's first state title.
"I am not sure some of these girls even realize what they have done this season and just how special this team has been," Bruisers coach Jay Watts said. "This is the winningest team we have ever had and the highest-scoring offense, too. I think once the season is over and the seniors have a chance to look back and reflect on what they have been able to accomplish and the impact they have had on this program, it will be pretty special."