Under Armour All-Americans Taylor Hensh and Tianna Wallpher have never played lacrosse together, but that doesn't mean they're not familiar with each other's games.
For four years, they faced off in one of the hottest rivalries in Maryland high school girls lacrosse. Hensh played midfield for Marriotts Ridge and Wallpher played defense for Mount Hebron.
The two battled for Howard County titles and regional championships throughout their careers. Hensh's Mustangs won four of the seven meetings and won three state championships, although Mount Hebron knocked them out in the 2012 regional playoffs. Five of those showdowns were decided by three goals or fewer and last year's regular-season game went to quadruple overtime.
Despite the rivalry, Hensh and Wallpher look forward to playing on the same team for the first time when they suit up for the South at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic Saturday night at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"It'll be fun to play with her on defense," Wallpher said. "I know that she's very aggressive and tenacious and I'm confident having her on the offensive side, because if she gets fouled and gets put on the 8-meter line, you better count the goal because there's a very slim chance that she's not going to make it."
While Hensh is well known for her accurate free-position shooting, Wallpher stands out for her ability to take charges.
"Now I don't have someone to charge into," Hensh said with a laugh. "She's very, very fast. She can clear it and it's always tough to run against that. It'll be nice to be on the same side for once."
Even in club competition the pair did not have the chance to play together; Hensh played for M&D and Wallper for Hero's. Playing in a high school rivalry that's ferocious on the field but not off, the two 18-year-olds have always been friendly and developed respect for each other as Hensh emerged as a takeover attacker with a knack for winning key draws and drawing fouls in the 8-meter arc while Wallpher developed into a shutdown defender.
"They're not the same kind of player," Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid said, "so the best way to compare them is that they have great lacrosse IQs. They know what needs to be done and they do it."
Both first-team All-Metro players, they've made big impacts for their teams over four years.
In May in the Class 3A-2A South Section I championship — the toughest section in the state — Hensh led the comeback as the No. 4 Mustangs rallied from four goals down with 12:31 left to beat No. 10 Century, 8-7. She scored four of the last six Mustangs goals — three on free position shots — and helped them win seven of 10 second-half draws, including the last four.
Hensh finished her senior year with 87 goals, 40 assists, 45 draw controls, 37 ground balls and 17 caused turnovers as the Mustangs went 17-2, falling only to No. 1 McDonogh and No. 7 Mount Hebron.
While Hensh excels all over the field, Wallpher owns her defensive space. An excellent one-on-one marker with great instincts for the team game, she had 15 interceptions, 11 blocks, 36 caused turnovers and 15 charges this spring for the Vikings, who finished 13-2, falling only to McDonogh and Century.
Wallpher is not afraid to hold her ground and take those charges — 48 in her career. She said those instincts carry over from basketball, which she also plays with no fear.
In last year's Under Armour underclassmen game, she took two charges, the second of which led to the game-winning goal against Long Island.
"We aren't talking just about being there when a girl lowers her head," said Mount Hebron coach Trish Derwart. "We are talking full position, take-the-fall charges, something you don't see often in the girls game."
Although Hensh and Wallpher play different roles for their teams, they have one crusade in common, aside from helping the South win the Under Armour game. They enjoy proving over and over again that being short in a game where players seem to get increasingly taller is not a disadvantage.
Hensh, 5-feet-3, is the shortest player on the South team and the second-shortest in the Under Armour game. Wallpher is 5-feet-5.
"I like being short, to be honest," Hensh said. "I like ducking under people's sticks."
"You're sneakier," Wallpher said, "and you make up for it strength-wise and usually you're a little bit faster. It is kind of a fun to be shorter and have people underestimate you."
"Chip on the shoulder for the short girls," Hensh added.
Chances are no one will underestimate either of them in the Under Armour game. It's safe to say their reputations precede them in a game that includes the best senior lacrosse players from all over the country.
C. Milton Wright coach Brent Ritz has coached both girls — although not at the same time — during the last four years on the Baltimore Metro team that played in the schoolgirls' division at the US Lacrosse Women's National Tournament. He also coached Wallpher last year in the Under Armour underclassmen game.
"They're firecrackers," Ritz said. "They both play at 110 percent. There's no slow button for them. They both fly around the field. They're both very intense players and they're both fantastic athletes. They're two of the most pure athletes I've seen."
Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic
Time: Boys at 5 p.m.; girls at 7:30 p.m.
Location: Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson University
TV: Boys game on ESPNU
Tickets and more information: UnderArmourLacrosse.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun