Athlete of Week: Aly leads Lady Panthers to playoffs

cfglax-1Carolina Forest junior lacrosse player Aly Estes was more prepared than anyone for the curveball the Lady Panthers were thrown by the playoff committee Monday. After all, she already knew what it was like to have lacrosse taken away from her, and to have it given back.

So it was a familiar feeling when Carolina Forest was at first informed it did not qualify for the postseason, despite a 9-2 record against in-state competition. But after Bluffton bowed out, the Lady Panthers were awarded a playoff spot in their first season of competition.

“It was crazy,” said Estes, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week award winner. “We were so bummed that we didn’t make it, then to get the good news later on was really awesome. We were so pumped just to make it in our first year because we really came a long way during the season.”

Estes moved to Myrtle Beach from Connecticut in the eighth grade and played for Socastee High as a freshman. Horry County students were allowed to play at Socastee because it was the only girls lacrosse program on the Grand Strand, but the Braves closed that loophole to help their chances of making the playoffs. Instead Estes played soccer as a sophomore to help keep her skill level up.

“I played soccer when I was younger, so it was a nice break from lacrosse,” Estes said. “Plus soccer is a lot like lacrosse in the positioning and strategy, so I think it helped me stay in shape. But it was disappointing because I love lacrosse and want to play in college, so missing a season was a big setback.”

When Carolina Forest, along with Myrtle Beach and St. James added lacrosse this year, Estes was as much a coach to the newcomers to the sport as she was the leading scorer. She helped her teammates learn lacrosse skills and experienced the pride of her accomplishment when the Lady Panthers came together late in the year.

“I think the second game against St. James was the turning point for us,” Estes said. “We were losing at halftime but then we sort of put it all together in the second half and won. It was great because we had to learn the fundamentals at the start of the season, so for us to come together and play well as a team was really rewarding.”

Surprisingly, Aly’s new team met her old one in the first round of the playoffs Monday, with Socastee taking a hard-fought 15-9 win.

“It was great to make the playoffs, and to get to play against Socastee,” Estes said. “Some of them are still friends so there were no hard feelings. We hugged after the game and helped each other up during the game, but we played each other hard. I was proud of how far we came, and excited about what we can do next year.”

Estes hopes to lead the Lady Panthers to greater heights in her senior year, and catch the attention of some college scouts along the way. Although the early contact period hasn’t opened yet for 2016 graduates, Estes has initiated contact with a couple of coaches and hopes to hear from more in the future. Given her track record for overcoming obstacles in lacrosse, don’t bet against her.

Photo by Rancier Photography

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