[Baltimore Sun] Southern girls lacrosse coach Cortney Yeatman reflects on breakthrough season, 1A state runner-up finish

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Southern girls lacrosse has been knocking on the door throughout the four-year tenure of coach Cortney Yeatman.

This season, Southern captured its fourth straight region championship, but after losing either the quarterfinals or semifinals the previous three seasons, the Bulldogs needed to figure out a way to get over the hump.

Yeatman did not need to speak to the team about the importance of taking the next step and reaching the Class 1A state championship game. Southern’s 10 seniors, only four of which are moving on to play college lacrosse, took care of that.

“My kids are very self-motivated, especially the seniors. They talked among themselves about how much they wanted to get to the state final,” Yeatman said. “As coaches, we can only want it for them so much.”

Senior attacker Emmie Mudd led the way as Southern rallied from an early deficit to defeat Middletown, 12-10, to advance to the state championship game for the first time in 20 years.

“Beating Middletown was huge. We did a ton of prep, a ton of research and felt super-prepared. When we fell behind 4-0, we realized we needed to reel it in quickly or else it would get away,” Yeatman told The Capital this week. “I told the players that we can’t have nerves anymore. We have to consider those 12 minutes our warmup. We had to trust our game plan and preparation. I thought the girls executed the game plan perfectly and confidently the rest of the way. I love the way we won that game because it proved to the girls they had the mental toughness.”

It was like the weight of the world had been lifted off the backs of the Bulldogs, who had not reached the state championship game since 2004. Yeatman said it was important for the underclassmen to see that it can be done.

“It was a bar that you just have to clear once. After you get there [state final], it not only seems possible, but probable,” Yeatman said. “I told the seniors that they showed all the littles on this team that we can get over this hurdle. I can say confidently that we will be back at that state championship game with these freshmen.”

Schiavone had a hat trick and Wallis stood tall between the pipes as Southern lost to Fallston, 14-7, in the Class 1A state final held at Stevenson University. The Bulldogs struggled early and late against the Cougars, falling behind 8-2 then getting outscored 3-0 in the final frame despite Fallston losing one of its top players, Ayla Galloway, to a second yellow card.

“We didn’t capitalize on being up a player. There were times when we got the ball down on offense in the fourth quarter and committed uncharacteristic turnovers. We had some stickwork mistakes we hadn’t made in a long time,” Yeatman said.

Southern’s Gabrielle Tompkins, left, and Fallston’s Olivia Parker vie for a ball during the Class 1A girls lacrosse state championship game on May 22. (Steve Ruark/Freelance)

Yeatman thinks the Bulldogs were a bit surprised by the rough and tumble defensive style of the Cougars, who also drew a green card to go along with four yellows.

“Fallston was a very physical team and that was definitely a factor. We were not used to all the pushing and shoving,” she said. “We were excited and nervous, so I also think we kind of let the moment get to us a little bit.”

Southern (10-9 overall) posted a 6-8 record during the regular season while playing a typically rigorous schedule against Anne Arundel County competition. There was one stretch in which Southern played perennial powers Broadneck, South River and Severna Park in three straight games.

“It definitely toughens our players. Every time we play these really strong teams during the year it can be difficult, but we come away battle-tested,” said Yeatman, noting that Southern faced Broadneck again in the Anne Arundel County Tournament. “We rely on what we learned by playing all these big-time teams all season when we get into the playoffs.”

Southern won three county contests, beating North County twice and Meade once. The Bulldogs picked up victories over Calvert and Friends in a holiday tournament hosted by Glen Burnie, then decisively beat Leonardtown, 11-6, to close out the regular season.

“That was the first game we implemented from beginning to end our whole season of teaching. It just all really came together in that game,” Yeatman said. “We felt like we were peaking at the right time.”

Southern went 4-1 in the playoffs to finish with a winning record, routing Cambridge-South Dorchester, 18-1, in the East Region II championship at Wingate Field in Harwood, then beating CMIT North, 18-2, in the state quarterfinals.

Southern’s Emmie Mudd, left, shoots and scores against Middletown in a Class 1A girls lacrosse state semifinal at Glen Burnie High School. Southern won 12-10.(John Gillis/Freelance)

Mudd, who will continue her lacrosse career at Mount St. Mary’s, led the Bulldogs in scoring with 51 goals. A product of the Maryland United club program, Mudd also provided tremendous leadership throughout the season.

“On the field, Emmy is just electric and can truly do it all. She can go righty or lefty, has great vision and a great shot. She is just an extremely strong lacrosse player,” Yeatman said. “Emmy is also very knowledgeable about the game. She’s very analytical during practice and is able to implement the game plan and strategy. She’s very good at teaching teammates and holds the other players to the expectations. She was really the voice spreading confidence all season.”

Freshman Mollie Schiavone ranked second on the squad with 36 goals despite missing four games with a concussion.

“Mollie is an extremely motivated athlete and absolutely loves lacrosse. She is very intense and pushes herself extremely hard,” Yeartman said. “Mollie is totally fearless and will drive hard to the goal and fight fiercely for ground balls.”

Goalie Abby Wallis, who has been a team captain since her sophomore season, amassed 124 saves. She had the ability to self evaluate and specifically asked the coaching staff to work on her weaknesses, such as clearing or stopping low shots.

“I absolutely love Abby because she is the best teammate I have ever coached. Every single day she shows up to practice with a smile and a great attitude,” Yeatman said.

Midfielder Grace Nash (McDaniel) along with defenders Gabrielle Tompkins (York College) and Paige Benson (Randolph-Macon) are the other three seniors moving on to the next level. Meanwhile, Schiavone was one of three freshmen starters with Brooke Parks and Addison Kadjeski.

Rounding out the starting lineup were senior Lilly Breen on attack, senior Rachel Breen along with juniors Halie Fleming (24 goals) and Cecilia Rock in the midfield as well as junior Molly Durkin on defense.

Southern’s Brooke Parks reacts after scoring a goal against Middletown in their Class 1A state semifinal. (John Gillis/Freelance)

Yeatman has built a coaching staff consisting entirely of Southern High graduates, including her sister Brittany. Delanie Tompkins and Shannon Barnhardt are the other assists. “We have great coaches who love our program and are committed to building it,” said Cortney Yeatman, who spent seven seasons as an assistant under previous coach Arvak Marshall.

Southern has now reached the state final five times and is still seeking its first championship. Yeatman said that is the next hurdle to clear and pointed out that Fallston lost in the title tilt three straight seasons (2021-2023) before breaking through.

“Our players now know what it takes to get to the state final. Having played on that stage is going to help us in a huge way,” Yeatman said.

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