Prep lacrosse: No. 2 Barron girls face No. 1 Vero Beach

David Albers/Staff
- The Barron Collier Girls Lacrosse team defeats Gulf Coast High School, 19-1, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at Barron Collier High School in Naples.

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David Albers/Staff - The Barron Collier Girls Lacrosse team defeats Gulf Coast High School, 19-1, on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at Barron Collier High School in Naples.

To get to the state semifinals, however, the Cougars will have to beat the most dominant program in the state and one of the best teams in the country.

The Cougars (19-3) are ranked second in the state. Standing in the way of Barron Collier’s first state semifinal appearance is Vero Beach (17-4), ranked No. 1 and the only girls program to win an sanctioned state championship in Florida.

The Barron Collier girls take their shot at knocking off Goliath as the first game of a playoff doubleheader on its home field. In a pair of third round play-in games in the state tournament, the girls play Vero Beach at 6 p.m. followed by the boys against North Palm Beach-Benjamin.

The winners of both games advance to the semifinals in the single-class tournament Friday at West Orange High School in Winter Garden near Orlando.

“This team believes in itself,” Barron Collier girls coach Chris Claussen said. “They have the confidence that they are prepared. They believe they’re ready to play this game.”

The Cougars have steadily built their program into Southwest Florida’s best. After forming as a club team almost 10 years ago, the Barron girls have won three straight district titles since becoming a varsity team eligible for the Florida High School Athletic Association postseason.

The first two playoff runs came to an end at the hands of mighty Vero Beach. Since the FHSAA sanctioned lacrosse and created a state tournament in 2008, the Fighting Indians have won all five state championships. They had to vacate their 2009 title for playing too many out of state opponents.

Vero Beach has won 104 straight games against in-state opponents. Last season the Indians won 19-9 at Barron Collier in the second round of the playoffs. The year before Vero Beach won 20-1 on the Cougars’ field.

“I give credit to (Indians) coach Shannon Dean,” Claussen said. “He’s elevated the game of lacrosse across Florida because everyone is chasing him. His program works its tails off. That pushes us to work our tails off because we know to beat them we have to work harder than they do.”

The Barron Collier boys are in the third round for the first time after also winning three straight district championships. Ranked No. 25 in the state, the Cougars (15-3) face a Benjamin team (16-2) ranked seventh.

The Cougars got to the third round by exacting revenge on Bishop Verot last week. Barron lost 7-6 to the Vikings in the regular season before a 16-3 road victory in the second round.

Benjamin’s only two losses were to top-ranked Boca Raton-St. Andrew’s and No. 2-ranked Jupiter

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