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Led by the G.O.A.T., 4-0 Salem lacrosse team cruises past Brighton

 Led by the G.O.A.T., 4-0 Salem lacrosse team cruises past Brighton

Mileena Cotter launches one of her 14 goals Monday night against Brighton.

Players like Salem senior lacrosse standout Mileena Cotter are a lot like total solar eclipses — they only come around about once every 20 years.

The nice thing about Cotter is you don’t have to wear special glasses to appreciate her brilliance.

Slicing through Brighton’s defense like a knife through hot butter about five hours after Monday’s solar eclipse, Cotter piled up 14 goals and a couple of assists to lead the Rocks to a 19-7 victory.

Possibly the nicest, most-humble high-achieving athlete in the area, Cotter has earned the title of Greatest Of All Time when it comes to Plymouth-Canton Educational Park girls lacrosse players — although her genuine humility makes her want to talk about her team more than herself.

And who can blame her, considering Salem is off to a sizzling 4-0 start?

To check out video highlights from Monday’s game, click here.

‘Amazing atmosphere’

“This team has a completely different culture than it has had in the past, and our two coaches — Damien (Butler) and Jen (Villar) — have played a huge role in that,” said Cotter.

Salem sophomore Aubrey Gay passes to an open teammate Monday night
A Salem player passes to an open teammate Monday night

“There is an amazing atmosphere around the team this year. From the freshmen to the seniors, we all hang out, we carpool together — there’s this great friendship that runs throughout the whole team. We have something that’s really, really hard to find, especially in high school sports.”

After the Bulldogs scored on its first possession to gain a 1-0 lead, the Rocks took over, scoring eight straight goals, six of which were propelled into the net by the flame-throwing Cotter.

Senior Kaitlyn Courtney and Emrie Gay also scored during the hosts’ early uprising.

After Cotter’s 11th goal of the night with five minutes left in the third quarter put Salem ahead, 14-4, Brighton strung together three consecutive net-finders to close the stanza. However, the Rocks’ defense stonewalled the Bulldogs the rest of the way.

Star’s skills ‘beyond high school’

Villar, who served as Salem’s head coach Monday night, emphasized she’s glad she’s coaching Cotter and not against her.

Salem players celebrate one of their 19 goals
Salem players celebrate one of their 19 goals

“Mileena’s agility is out of this world,” Villar said. “Her level of play is not high school. Teams can’t stop her one-on-one; some coaches learn fast that you have to put two, three or four girls on her.

“What us coaches are the most proud of when it comes to Mileena is that when she is covered by multiple players, she’s always looking up the field for an open teammate. To me, that says so much more about her as a player because it’s not just ‘me, me, me, me’. She’s really trying to accomplish what’s best for the team.”

Aubrey Gay prepares to fire a shot at the net
Emrie Gay prepares to fire a shot at the net

Villar’s praise for the reigning Michigan high school lacrosse player of the year goes beyond Cotter’s on-the-field exploits.

“She’s even better off the field,” Villar said. “She’s an amazing human being. To be able to be a part of her high school career has been wonderful.”

Team effort

Villar also applauded the play of Gay, who registered a hat-trick, Courtney and Aubrey Kuhn.

“Aubrey is a middie, but she played wonderful defense tonight,” Villar said.

Mileena Cotter eyes the descending ball Monday night
Mileena Cotter eyes the descending ball Monday night

Salem has been bolstered the past two games by strong play from interim goalies Leyla Peck (Monday night) and Danika Denhof (Friday night against Saline). In the absence of the Rocks’ first-string goalie, Peck was promoted from the junior varsity roster to debut in net against Brighton, while Denhof shined against Saline even though her primary role is as a middie/defender.

“This team’s potential is higher than for any team I’ve played on in high school,” said Cotter, who has committed to play collegiate lacrosse for NCAA powerhouse Syracuse.

“We all get along, we all love one another and we have each other’s backs.”

And the Rocks have a humble, dominating G.O.A.T., who is determined to lead them to greener pastures.

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or

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Ed Wright

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