Palmer a scoring machine for Sailors

The biggest crowd in years showed up to Tuesday's Newport Harbor High girls' lacrosse game at Davidson Field.

The league game against Yorba Linda was billed as Newport Harbor's "Game of the Month." The Sailors took care of business, 9-5, and a dance followed at the field.

It didn't last long, though, until the police came.

"It was an outside dance, so we had the DJ and speakers and stuff," Newport Harbor senior captain Alex Palmer said. "It was only about 8:15 or 8:20 [p.m.] when they came. I guess they got some complaints or something.

"Next time, we're going to have the dance in the gym," Palmer added with a laugh.

Shutting down the game of Palmer, though, isn't a task so easily achieved.

The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week has been a scoring machine for the Sailors (7-1). In all eight of their games, she has either led the team outright or tied for the team lead in scoring.

The statistics — 31 goals, 16 ground balls and 20 caused turnovers — speak for themselves. Palmer leads the Sailors in all three categories. And she's doing it efficiently, Coach Matt Armstrong said.

"She's shooting about 60%, which is off the charts," Armstrong said. "Your really good players are shooting 50%."

Palmer, in her fourth year on varsity and third year as captain, is helping Newport Harbor do big things. The Sailors are 3-0 in the Century/Sunset League, tied for first with perennial powerhouse Foothill, ranked No. 1 in Southern California by

Newport Harbor is ranked higher than it has been in the past, No. 15. The Sailors hope to return to the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs, in which they have not participated in Armstrong's first two years at the helm.

Palmer and her fellow senior captains, defender Jenna Nulty and goalie Cailynn Smethurst, have helped build the program. Smethurst has been the varsity goalie all four years.

The Sailors had a large senior class in 2010-11, but lost more than those players after former Coach Sarah Queener left for a college coaching position at Pomona-Pitzer. Several other girls quit the team, Palmer said.

Armstrong, an English teacher at Harbor who played lacrosse at the University of Michigan, became the man in charge.

"They're the ones who stuck around," he said of his three senior captains. "All three were in my English class as well, which was kind of funny. Before I became coach, I knew them as students."

Palmer certainly is a student of the game. She has improved her stick skills in both field hockey and lacrosse. Palmer is a two-year varsity player for Coach Amanda Boyer's field hockey team. Last fall, she was an all-tournament selection as Newport finished third in the Los Angeles Field Hockey Assn. Tournament of Champions.

The Sailors' field hockey program, which won four straight TOC crowns from 2008-2011, has traditionally been strong. Palmer is helping the lacrosse program get there. Two years ago the Tars finished sixth in league, and last year they were fifth. Foothill will be tough for the Sailors, but they can help solidify a top-two spot in league by beating Yorba Linda on Wednesday.

"It's really exciting," she said. "We had a lot of girls come out this year, and the girls that were on the team last year stayed. It helped increase the numbers. We had to make cuts for the first time that I've been involved in the program. We almost had enough room for a frosh-soph team.

'I'm really proud of our team. We've come a long way, and I'm really honored that my senior year we have a really good team. We're all working hard, and we all want to be here, which was a problem last year. Some girls just didn't really care, or didn't have the right mindset. [This year] all the girls want to be here, and it reflects on the field."

Armstrong calls Palmer a quiet leader by example. But when she has things to say, everyone listens. And her play on the field says plenty.

"I was counting on her scoring a bunch of goals, but she's really owning the field on each end," Armstrong said. "It has been obviously really helpful to the team, and a lot of fun to watch. Underneath that really nice, positive exterior, I think there's a serious competitor in there. If the game can be won, she'll find a way to do it. That's another thing I've seen this year; just that determination to find success."

Palmer is dedicated in other areas, like those involving her faith. She's a student leader for the Newport Harbor branch of Young Life, a Christian organization that organizes activities for students on Monday nights.

After graduation,. she wants to stay on with the organization as a leader.

"It's a clean, fun environment for kids," said Palmer, who also is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club on campus. "It's a huge part of my life right now, besides lacrosse."

Palmer always is willing to lend the helping hand. She scored 41 goals last year as a junior, and appears well on her way to eclipsing that total this year. But one player doesn't make a lacrosse team.

"I have a good team to help back me up," she said. "By the end of the game, I have no idea how many I've scored. I'm just kind of paying attention to the excitement of the game. I mean, I'm not counting my own goals. Afterward, I have to ask my parents, 'How many did I get?' But I definitely work hard every game, and do it for the team.

"It's really cool to get some wins. Whatever it takes ... whatever I can do to help, I'll do it."


Alex Palmer

Born: Dec. 11, 1995

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 5-foot-5 1/2

Sport: Lacrosse

Year: Senior

Coach: Matt Armstrong

Favorite food: Pasta

Favorite movie: "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls"

Favorite athletic moment: Beating Esperanza in the season finale last year.

Week in review: Palmer scored nine combined goals as the Sailors earned victories over El Toro and Valencia, teams they lost to last year.

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