Always Prepared Ella Brislin Snags USA Lacrosse West Player of the Year Honors

Ella Brislin struggled at softball as a kid, so her family thought the hand-eye coordination with a lacrosse stick would be a similar issue. At the same time, the recent Scripps Ranch High School (Calif.) graduate excelled at soccer, and many aspects of that sport translated well with the footwork, speed and endurance required.

Sheer athleticism and an incredible work ethic helped Brislin overcome any initial deficiencies she might have displayed with a crosse, and by the end of her high school career, she had built quite the resume in what now is her main sport.

After leading Scripps Ranch to a second straight CIF San Diego Open title this season, Brislin, a captain and standout midfielder, is the Nike / USA Lacrosse West Girls’ Player of the Year.

“Since she was probably in fourth or fifth grade, she was playing up two or three grade levels in club, and a lot of it is just athletically, she’s ahead of a lot of her peers, especially in speed,” said Scripps Ranch assistant coach Jeffrey Williamson, who also coaches Brislin in club lacrosse. “She has the speed to burn, but the rest of it is IQ, and stick skills over the years have caught and passed most of her peers as well, but her primary attribute that got her to this level is sheer athleticism. The other thing is whether it was soccer or lacrosse, she just refused to lose. When things get tough, she will take matters into her own hands. It’s a quality very few other players we’ve had display. A lot have that desire but can’t affect the game like she can. She’s the ultimate competitor and has the athleticism and skill to back it up and she absolutely hates to lose.”

Brislin also was a high level soccer player, learning to move about skillfully as a center forward, but she began to prioritize lacrosse in seventh grade and finally turned her full focus to the sport her sophomore year.

As an eighth- and ninth-grader in 2017 and 2018, she was named an Under Armour All-American West honoree, and she was first team All-League and second team All-CIF as a freshman. In 2019, she was a [USA] Lacrosse All-American and first team All-League and All-CIF pick while leading the Falcons to the CIF San Diego Open Division title.

When the 2020 season shut down after just five games and the Falcons didn’t get a chance to defend their title with another strong group of players, Brislin said she and the other eight seniors this year had a fire lit underneath them to pick up where they left off. They ended the 2019 season on an eight-game winning streak to win the title and finished 19-2 with an overtime loss to La Jolla (Calif.) that they avenged in the section final and a loss to Harriton (Pa.). Scripps Ranch started off 5-0 in 2020.

“I felt like as a team, we were really pumped going into the season because we won sophomore year and went into junior year fired up, and having that canceled lit a fire under us,” Brislin said. “We had eight seniors, so we wanted a final hurrah, and knowing it was my final season, I wanted to put it all out there to win a championship again.”

“She has the speed to burn, but the rest of it is IQ.”

— Jeffrey Williamson

Brislin surged once again and fired in 75 goals while adding 18 assists, 48 ground balls, 82 draw controls and 33 caused turnovers, as Scripps Ranch went 17-0 and achieved its repeat of the section title. She was once again named first team All-League and All-CIF but also was the Western League Player of the Year and CIF Player of the Year, in addition to USA Lacrosse West Player of the Year honors.

The UC Davis-bound midfielder said she had to make more adjustments this year to be successful against double teams and faceguards, which ultimately didn’t work for opponents because Brislin was able to rise above or get her teammates more involved in the scoring.

“It took a lot of adjustments, but my coaches prepared me,” said Brislin, who also was a member of the California Scholarship Federation all four years of high school and graduated with a 4.3 GPA. “I worked a lot with [head coach Michele Uhlfelder] after games, and we adjusted a lot of our plays to plan accordingly if I was having a difficult time we would be able to adjust and not take myself out of the game by getting in my own head. Keeping a clam mindset was the biggest thing for me.”

Brislin also was the player Scripps Ranch tried to get the ball to on draws because it was usually the best way to gain possession. Draw specialist Leiden Huber had been her teammate in club soccer and lacrosse every season since Brislin was 7 years old, and the two had a close connection that paid off with hand signals and a quick flick to get Brislin the ball.

Williamson said Brislin has always been “so good at everything,” including feeding, but she grew the most in learning how to be effective when attracting all the defense.

“Most of our games aren’t close, but ones that are, she takes matters into her own hands,” Williamson said. “One thing that’s unique is in those games that aren’t necessarily pivotal, she’s the most unselfish player you will ever meet. We were constantly getting on her to assert herself even more than she already had. She’s so dominant but still unselfish and it raises the level of her teammates. She’s struck a very good balance of being a dominant player ad being unselfish. She’s also one of the most beloved teammates because she knows she can take over a game but wants to include her teammates.”

Now Brislin is preparing to carry on her skills to her dream school at UC Davis and hoping to bring the same kind of success she helped play a big part in at Scripps Ranch.

“I’m really excited to start this new chapter,” Brislin said. “Three of us are going to UC Davis, so there’s an energy we are hoping to bring. We are pumped up, ready to go, and have a lot of confidence after the season we had.”

Nike/USA Lacrosse High School Rankings
National Boys' Top 25 | National Girls' Top 25
Northeast Boys' Top 10 | Northeast Girls' Top 10
Mid-Atlantic Boys' Top 10 | Mid-Atlantic Girls' Top 10
South Boys' Top 10
| South Girls' Top 10
Midwest Boys' Top 10
| Midwest Girls' Top 10
West Boys' Top 10
| West Girls' Top 10

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1. Colorado Academy (Colo.), 13-0

The Mustangs won their sixth straight title in dominant fashion, beating Valor Christian 14-3 in the CHSAA Class 5A final. The members of the senior class never lost a game during their three years in high school (with the 2020 season wiped by the pandemic), and the last time Colorado lost a game was April 20, 2017. Senior Jessie Bakes finished with 54 goals, eight assists and 49 draw controls, while Katherine Merrifield added 34 goals and eight assists to go along with 33 draw controls, 22 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers.

2. Scripps Ranch (Calif.), 17-0                                  

The Falcons capped a perfect season with their second straight CIF San Diego Section Open Division title, beating La Jolla (Calif.) 10-3 in the final June 5. Scripps Ranch also had defeated La Jolla in the last championship in 2019. The Falcons were led midfielder Ella Brislin (75 goals, 18 assists, 82 draw controls), Kayden Williamson (48 goals, 17 assists), Natalie Markman (44 goals, 21 assists) and Ally Richardson-Pepper (75 saves and 43 goals allowed with a save rate of 64 percent).

3. Foothill-Santa Ana (Calif.), 18-0

The Knights left no doubt who is tops in their region of the state, as they rolled to a 21-5 championship win over ranked Newbury Park (Calif.) to claim the first CIF Southern Section Division I title and cap a perfect season. Elena Torres finished with 71 goals and 14 assists, Zoey Stephens added 45 goals and five assists, Taylor Puma had 40 goals and 13 assists and Natalie Anderson contributed 37 goals and 23 assists. Foothill is the first girls lacrosse team from Orange County to post an undefeated season since 2016 when Mater Dei accomplished that feat. The Knight won all but four of their games by double digits and allowed only one of their opponents to cross the 10-goal mark.

4. San Ramon Valley (Calif.), 12-0

The Wolves completed their season, and the CIF North Coast Section will not be holding championships this year. Alannah Scott led SRV with 48 goals and eight assists, and Lauren Iorio added 33 goals and 20 assists. CoCo Wong won 73.7 percent of the draws she took and also tallied 25 goals and 24 assists. The Wolves outscored opponents 218-76.

5. Mercer Island (Wash.), 9-0

The Islanders concluded a perfect season with a 16-7 win over Mount Si (Wash.) on June 8. Annabelle Gersch led with 33 goals, 21 assists, 56 draw controls and 17 caused turnovers, while Molly Brodsky added 32 goals, two assists, 31 draw controls and 10 caused turnovers. There were no playoffs in Washington this year.


6. La Jolla (Calif.), 12-4

Second-seeded La Jolla beat Torrey Pines for a third time this season in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division semifinals but could not get a first win over Scripps Ranch in the final. In their third matchup of the season, the Vikings fell behind 7-2 in the first half and couldn’t recover. La Jolla’s other loss was to Foothill. The Vikings defense allowed just 98 goals, while the offense backed them with 237 goals scored.

7. Park City (Utah), 19-0

The Miners capped an undefeated season with the UHSAA/Mountain America title, beating Waterford (Utah) 17-11 in the final on May 28. Kendall Keblish led Park City with 99 goals and 23 assists this season, and Samantha Riely added 50 goals and 42 assists. The Miners outscored opponents 381-51 this season.

8. Valor Christian (Colo.), 11-2

The Eagles beat Regis Jesuit for a second time this year in the CHSAA Class 5A semifinals, winning 11-7 to advance to the final, where they fell short of Colorado Academy in a rematch of an early-season loss. The 14-3 loss to Colorado Academy wasn’t the improvement Valor hoped to show since their 15-12 defeat to the Mustangs May 19. The Eagles were 11-0 against the rest of their competition. Tess Osburn led the team with 46 goals and eight assists, while Reagan Digby added 39 goals and 10 assists and Kaley Kakac and Eliza Osburn each added 30 goals.

9. Newbury Park (Calif.), 15-2

The Panthers were unable to avenge their only regular-season loss, falling to Foothill in the CIF Southern Section final. Newbury Park had four seniors contribute stats this season and a plethora of young talent expected to return next season. Senior Emma Ing led with 68 goals and four assists, junior Cassie Huber added 40 goals and seven assists, freshman Reagan Laubner had 32 goals and 12 assists and sophomore Lindsay O’Toole contributed 28 goals and 19 assists.

10. Torrey Pines (Calif.), 13-4

The Falcons’ season ended with a third loss to La Jolla, this time in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division semifinals. Torrey Pines trailed just 6-4 at halftime and the five-goal final deficit was its best performance against La Jolla. Junior Reese Loseke led the Falcons this season with 53 goals and 31 assists, while freshman Laurel Gonzalez added 33 goals and 11 assists and senior Liz Trask finished with 25 goals and 16 assists.