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Riverview High girls lacrosse wants to show strength of whole team

The Rams already have top-tier scorers. Now they're building full-team depth.

Ashley Eisenacher (10) is one of three freshmen on the Riverview High girls lacrosse team. Eisenacher had two goals against Lakewood Ranch.
Ashley Eisenacher (10) is one of three freshmen on the Riverview High girls lacrosse team. Eisenacher had two goals against Lakewood Ranch.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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A single lacrosse game only tells so much, especially early in a season, but the Riverview High girls lacrosse team's 19-7 home win over Lakewood Ranch High on Feb. 19 carried noteworthy insights. 

The first: Riverview's top players are still at the top. Senior Susan Lowther is a University of Clemson signee who last season finished with 112 goals, the 25th most in the United States according to MaxPreps data, and 56 assists. She's flanked by juniors Caroline Steinwachs (56 goals in 2023) and Chloe Hackl (48 goals in 2023), forming a trio of players who can score in bunches. 

The trio showed off that ability against Lakewood Ranch: Lowther had five goals and three assists; Steinwachs had five goals and one assist; Hackl had three goals. The performances were not surprising. In 2023, the Rams navigated a difficult schedule to finish 12-8 and reach the regional quarterfinals before losing 13-9 to Gulf Coast High in a game Steinwachs missed with an injury. Scoring 19 goals on a less-established opponent is expected, if still a good sign for the rest of the season. 

What was less expected, at least by outsiders to the program, were the contributions from the rest of the team. Rams Head Coach Ashley McLeod said the team has just 14 players on its roster. There could have been more, McLeod said, but she opted to keep it small. In its current construction, the roster has no weak links, McLeod said. That's something she reminds the team of often, in an effort to have everyone always play their best. 

Riverview junior Caroline Steinwachs drives toward the net for a shot against Lakewood Ranch. Steinwachs had five goals in the game.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

"They put in the work all offseason," McLeod said. "You can tell that they have been hitting the wall. They have their stick skills (already). That's all I can ask for." 

The group of 14 includes three freshmen, all of whom will see significant time for the team. Midfielder Ashley Eisenacher had two goals and won four ground balls against Lakewood Ranch; McLeod said Eisenacher is among the more coachable players on the team already, listening to each instruction and executing it. Midfielder Maria Berzins works well with Lowther and Steinwachs, McLeod said, as another "tall tower" around the net. Berzins had a goal in the team's first game, a 17-10 road win over IMG Academy Blue on Feb. 15. 

The biggest surprise, and biggest initial impact, of the freshman trio belongs to goalkeeper Verite Molinaro, who is playing lacrosse for the first time this spring. McLeod said she taught Molinaro, who came up as a soccer player, as a seventh grader at Pine View School and asked her to try lacrosse. Molinaro declined. But McLeod was persistent, finally winning her over this season. 

While Molinaro is still getting used to using her stick instead of her hands to make saves, early returns have shown her potential. Molinaro made seven saves against Lakewood Ranch, good for a .500 save percentage. Riverview's goaltenders combined for a .410 save percentage a season ago.

McLeod said Molinaro has been equally impressive in her internal work. 

"I told her tonight, 'You did great,' and all she said was, 'I know what I need to fix,'" McLeod said. "And she has been working to fix those things. That's what you want as a coach, players willing to make changes." 

In between the team's top-scoring trio and its freshmen are players that fill their roles equally well. Senior attacker Alexandra Hernandez provides on-field leadership and supplemental scoring; she had two goals and an assist against Lakewood Ranch. Juniors Meghan Cox and Hailey Domenick are stalwarts on defense, and McLeod said they are already primed to pick up the leadership torch when the current senior class graduates. 

McLeod, who is in her ninth season heading up the Rams, said it is difficult to project where a team will be at the end of the season after just two games, but likes the direction the team is headed. If the team can limit the snowball effect of mistakes — like how lots of turnovers leads to lot of transition play, which leads to the team being tired — McLeod likes her small group's chances to find success. 

"We have endless talent and endless possibilities," McLeod said. "We're still adjusting to the changes. We're just trying to do what we need to do (to win): Play smarter, not harder." 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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