Grace Griffin, thanks to her parents, got her wish to attend a private school the year before her high school sports career began.
Griffin, an Eldersburg resident, played field hockey and lacrosse at the eighth-grade level at Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills. She enjoyed her year at the all-girls school, but said she wasn't completely happy with the experience. Being classmates and teammates with her friends and neighbors won out in the end — along with the chance to play a year of lacrosse with her older sister Maggie — and Griffin went to Liberty rather than stay at Garrison Forest.
Four years later, Griffin is relishing her chance to reflect on her decision and a standout athletic career — and a stellar senior year — with the Lions.
"I still wanted to be around people in my community, and kids that I had grown up with since I was in first grade," Griffin said. "And just being able to do that, and that type of pride, and where you live and everyone knows everyone ... it just means a lot. And I think it turned out great."
Griffin focused on basketball and lacrosse in high school, and earned accolades in each sport. She was twice named Times first-team all-county in basketball, and four times to the lacrosse all-county first team.
Liberty's basketball team struggled some this past winter, going 9-15, but Griffin shined all year long. She averaged 13.1 points per game, third highest in the county, and added 10.2 rebounds (also third best). Only Manchester Valley's Mackenzie DeWees and Century's Kelsey Weishaar averaged double-doubles along with Griffin.
Griffin also averaged 5.7 steals and 4.2 assists per game, and her field-goal percentage (42.4) was third best in Carroll. She earned second-team all-state honors from the Maryland Basketball Coaches Association.
Things didn't slow down for Griffin when winter turned to spring. She maintained her reputation as one of the county's top offensive threats and helped the Lions, despite a losing record during the regular season, win the Class 2A-1A South Region championship and play in the state semifinals.
Liberty fell to county rival Century in that round, but Griffin netted a game-high six goals to finish her high school career with 208. She's the third player in Liberty girls lacrosse history to reach 200 career goals, and the 13th in Carroll history to achieve that feat.
The Lions celebrated their first regional championship in 17 years, and Griffin didn't have many complaints despite the final four loss to Century.
"I knew that I was going to have my chance to win at certain times, [but] you have to learn to lose," Griffin said. "Lose with dignity and learn how to come back from that, and I think ... someone's character gets built so much more by doing that."
Liberty first-year coach Taylor Cassatt knew she'd have a reliable leader in Griffin. And it didn't take Cassatt long to realize Griffin's approach to the game was as advertised.
"The best way that I can describe Grace is that she's a real class act," Cassatt said. "She's the type of player, she's everywhere on the field. Whenever she makes a mistake she's the first one to have the ball in her stick going the other way. Grace is the kind of player that comes around once every 10 years."
Griffin's next stop is Maryland, where she'll look to find her place on a women's lacrosse team loaded with talented players that will start next season as the reigning national champions. But she has a little more high school lacrosse before that.
First up is the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Senior All-Star Game, set for July 1 at Towson University. Griffin and Century senior Kylie Davis are Carroll's representatives on the South Team, although Davis won't be playing because of a knee injury.
Cassatt called it an "easy choice" nominating Griffin for the all-star game, and Griffin said she was hoping to get a chance after playing in the annual event's Underclass Games for three years.
"I was so excited ... I got a phone call during school, and luckily, I could answer," Griffin said. "I didn't miss the phone call. It was such a surprise ... such an honor to be able to represent Carroll County."
Griffin said she's also participating in an event hosted by Inside Lacrosse called the Committed Academy, July 7-9 at Goucher College. It's a camp where players are chosen by invitation (Class of 2017 and 2018) to represent their future colleges and play with soon-to-be teammates.
The Academy also features sessions where players can participate in character and leadership development, and learn about life as an athlete on a college campus.
Chalk it up as another experience Griffin is anticipating, just as she did when she made her high school decision four years ago.
"This summer is a lot about preparation," she said. "A lot of people don't play club [lacrosse] their senior year, outside of high school. Basically, just whatever I can get my hands on and get a stick in my hand, and play against the best of the best ... I definitely don't want to turn down any of those opportunities."