When it came to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference playoffs for Roland Park Country School, opponents focused on stopping Reds All-American midfielder CeCe Finney.
That's because the senior and Roland Park resident dominated the league, racking up 63 goals in 16 games to account for nearly a third of the Reds' goals.
"Teams really zeroed in on her," said Roland Park's Park Kristin Nicolini, who serves as co-coach with her sister, Reagan Koffel.
Constant double teams made the 2014 Baltimore Messenger girls lacrosse player of the year play even better in the postseason against three teams ranked in the top 10 of the Baltimore Sun's girls high school lacrosse rankings.
The 5-foot-10 University of Florida recruit notched a whopping 14 goals in those games, including four in a 13-11 quarterfinal victory over Bryn Mawr and six more in a 12-10 semifinal conquest of Notre Dame Prep.
"I think she played as well as she had all year," Koffel said of the playoffs. "We needed her leadership on and off the field to the get to the championship, and she did it. Teams were really trying to deny her the ball. All she needed was a second to get open. She had less opportunities, but she was still able to convert a lot of them."
The Under Armour All-American also shined in the final, scoring four goals in a 16-13 loss to seven-time champion McDonogh in the Reds' first title game appearance since 2010.
"I just really wanted to get to the championship game," Finney said. "There was no way I was going to go out of the playoffs after one game. I just put the pedal to the medal and went for it."
Finney, who chose Florida over Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, helped the Reds to a big turnaround this spring. They posted a sparkling 15-4 record after struggling to a 6-10 mark last year.
She led Roland Park in goals (77), draw controls (99) and ground balls (35).
"She is one of the few players we have had that can consistently pick up a team when we needed it," Nicolini said. "If we need a draw or a goal at a crucial time, she would get it. She was a game-changer. And she was probably our most versatile player."
And also maybe the Reds' most relentless player while playing at both ends of the field.
"She was a very intense player," McDonogh coach Chris Robinson said. "She always played as hard as anybody."
Finney, a three-year starter and also a standout Reds' indoor track and volleyball performer, shot the ball with pinpoint accuracy and plenty of velocity.
She honed that skill and others playing for some of the area's best club teams — the Maryland Lacrosse Club and TLC Lacrosse Club.
"She could shoot from anywhere," Robinson said. "She would shoot from places other kids wouldn't."
"Her shot was amazing," Nicolini said. "It tricks up a lot of goalies. She had the ability to shoot from very far out and very close in."
Roland Park also valued the two-year co-captain for her leadership abilities.
"She was mature beyond her years, always had a positive outlook and was vocal," Nicolini said. "We had three freshmen that played, and she made them feel welcomed to the team. She would work with them."
Finney said she felt more comfortable as a leader this year than in 2013, when she was also named a US Lacrosse All-America.
That was clearly her biggest area of growth.
"This year, I told people what to do if they had questions," explained Finney, who will play for the South All-Stars in Under Armour Lacrosse Classic on July 12 at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium. "I was stern. I wasn't too bossy, but I was constantly talking."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun