The Check-Hers Elite Lacrosse Club identifies its teams by the year the girls will graduate from high school.
Judging from the way they improved this year, many girls on Courtney Vaughn’s 2023 team will have made quite a name for itself by the time that graduation year arrives. After a slow start in which it won only one game in an early spring league, it picked up momentum.
Check-Hers won two tournaments and took second in another before the spring/summer season ended in June.
The girls, most of whom are 14, will scatter to just about every high school in the county this fall. And there’s a good chance those lacrosse programs will feel their freshmen’s presence pretty strongly before long.
The core of the team has been together for several years and won a couple of tournaments last year as an age 13 team. A number of coaches from Check-Hers have worked with the 2023 team. These include Morgan Maier, Tracey Rohrback, and Patty Daley.
The head coach is Vaughn, who was named to the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame in April. Vaughn, whose Liberty and Winters Mill high school girls lacrosse teams won 339 games and 12 county titles, was thus an ideal person to impart lacrosse wisdom to her players.
Vaughn explained that her goal is to prepare the girls for high school. Later when they are a little older, it will be for college.
“It’s really about getting each player working on skills development and fundamentals to prepare them for high school and to get some of them ready for college in a year or two,” she said.
And while she likes her teams to win, she said winning isn’t the primary thing.Vaughn noted that those hundreds of college lacrosse coaches and recruiters who flock to the big lacrosse tournaments don’t really care if the Check-Hers team wins its game. They only care about how the girls play it.
It’s a good thing that winning wasn’t the coaches’ overriding concern. Things would have been pretty depressing for them considering the way the 2023 squad began this season.
The team went 1-7 in the National Girls Lacrosse League’s Baltimore Division’s 2023 age bracket, which competed from March through mid-May.
Vaughn acknowledged that the National Girls League features some of the top teams in the country, and that the odds were stacked against her team.
“One reason was that our kids come from public schools," Vaughn said. “Other clubs recruit top players from private school programs that play more intense schedules year-round. We also had some injuries.
“Anyway, you learn a lot more when you lose. You learn where your weaknesses are and what you need to work on.”
During practice, drills are set up to develop physical skills, obviously. But they are also intended to teach the players how to handle pressure.
The coaches created this pressure artificially. In drills where groups of three or four played against each other, the loser had to run laps. This created pressure to “win." This was done by perhaps outscoring another group on offense or being more successful at stopping attacks than another defensive unit.
The desire to avoid doing extra laps during the hot summer months provided enough “pressure.”
A few weeks of practice, and the team was ready to take on the summer’s challenges.
Its first competition was the Indy Playday on June 1 in College Park. Check-Hers made out well, too, winning all four of its games. A week later, it went 5-0 in the Summer Classic in Bel Air.
On June 15-16, the 2023 team returned to Bel Air for the Live, Love, Lax tournament. But things were rougher this time. Check-Hers went 1-3 and was outscored 16-36.
It came closer in the Beach Blast tournament at Rehoboth Beach. Check-Hers went 3-1 in its 2023 Star Fish Division and made it to the finals before being knocked out in the championship game.
However, the girls outscored their four divisional pool play opponents 43-18, the highest margin of any team in that bracket. Among its victims was the previous year’s 2023 champ Lady Blue Crabs.
However, Virginia-based Pride Red upended the locals 6-2 in the championship game.
Its final tournament of the season, early July’s Capital City Lax Festival in Boyds, was another win. Check-Hers went 5-0 in totally dominating its 2023 White Division, scoring 63 goals and allowing only 14.
Since then, there has been a short lull while Check-Hers club’s teams holds tryouts and practices for the fall season.
Almost all of the 2023 players will be back for the fall tournaments. Check-Hers 2023 will play tournaments in Bel Air, Owings Mills, and Annapolis.
Vaughn said she felt the girls improved a lot as the year went on. She was happy with the spring/summer season as she awaits the fall.
“I think they competed very hard," Vaughn said. "As a coach you want them to develop as players and as people, and I think they bought in to that. We also had a lot of fun.”