Glenelg Country School goalie Natalie Eastwood played like a veteran Tuesday in her first start against a ranked team, making a handful of early saves that set the tone for the No. 9 Dragons’ 15-5 win over No. 6 Notre Dame Prep.
The Blazers averaged 11 goals in winning their first three games, but the host Dragons scored the first six goals in an impressive victory after graduating their leading scorer, their draw control specialist, three starting defenders and their goalie from last year’s IAAM A Conference finalist.
“She just sets the tone for the whole team,” said senior attacker Regan Byrne. “Having our goalie — who is easily one of our best players, if not the best — it really just helps the team overall a lot.”
Eastwood, who finished with seven saves, made a couple of spectacular stops early and kept the Blazers off the board for more than 33 minutes. The junior said she learned a lot playing behind Stephanie Marszal last season.
“I always wanted to get better every day and she was pushing me to try and get better and that made me more excited for this year,” Eastwood said. “I got my opportunity and all I really want is to do as much as I can for the team… Coming into this big leadership role, I’ve had a lot of support and at the end of the day, they’re doing all they can to give me the shots that I want to see and that makes my job easier.”
Dragons coach Paige Walton said Eastwood and the starting defenders Ashley Dyer, Ella Dyer, Cate O’Ferrall and Julia Dustin have quickly meshed even though only Ashley Dyer started last season.
“Natalie is so mature and she’s very poised in the cage, makes good decisions and the girls rally around her and she rallies around them…” Walton said. “They work just like our offensive team works as a unit, our defense and midfielders work as a unit there and that’s something that has come through the preseason. It didn’t happen overnight. We have a younger team … but they practice hard, they play hard and we’re just really proud of them.”
Last spring The Dragons (2-0 overall and in the conference) were the only team to beat A Conference champion St. Paul’s last spring before falling to the Gators in the title game. With much turnover from that 17-2 squad, it appeared they would need time to rebuild. Tuesday’s performance proved they’ve simply reloaded.
Byrne said the early victory was a statement win.
“NDP’s a good team,” she said, “and I think this shows that the Dragons are back and we never left.”
The Blazers (3-1, 2-1) won most of the early draws, but they turned the ball over seven times before scoring a goal. Eastwood made a couple of early highlight-reel saves, the defense pressed the Blazers into mistakes and NDP never managed to settle into its offense.
“They were playing pressure, they were making it tough to pass the ball,” NDP coach Mac Ford said, “so they were coming out and our girls just didn’t handle it well… I don’t think they were doing anything new that we didn’t expect. They just played better than we did.”
The Dragons were exceptionally efficient on attack, scoring 15 goals on 20 shots. They scored on seven of their first nine.
Jess Doreen assisted Byrne and Maggie Flanagan for a 2-0 lead a little over five minutes into the game. Byrne and Flanagan scored three goals in the opening 6-0 run capped by Bryne’s bouncer on a free-position shot with 6 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first half.
Sarah Goodison, who led the Blazers with a goal and an assist, scored less than a minute later. With 1:41 to go in the half, Katie Gorski scored on a feed from Flanagan for a 7-1 Dragons lead at the half.
Bryne opened the second half with a free-position goal and the Blazers never cut the lead to less than six.
“We practiced the game plan yesterday and we executed it today,” said Walton, whose team dealt the Blazers their first 10-goal loss since 2019.
“We’re starting to gel. We graduated a lot of kids last year. We’ve had a lot of young kids step up and I think they really enjoy playing together and I think through our preseason, have learned how to play together. We just got Regan back and I think that helped, because she’s a leader out there.”
In addition to Regan Byrne’s scoring, four Dragons had at least three points — Flanagan with three goals and an assist, Lily Fortin with two goals and an assist and Blair Byrne, Regan’s twin, with a goal and two assists.
NO. 9 GLENELG COUNTRY SCHOOL 15, NO. 6 NOTRE DAME PREP 5
Glenelg Country 7 8 — 15
Notre Dame Prep 1 4 — 5
GOALS: NDP—Sarah Goodison, Paige Kawa, Caroline Bowers, Lily Peek, Maci Wasielewski; GCS—Regan Byrne 7, Maggie Flanagan 3, Lily Fortin 2, Blair Byrne, Kate Gorski, Nichelle Debordes.
ASSISTS: NDP—Sarah Goodison; GCS—Jess Doreen 3, Blair Byrne 2, Maggie Flanagan, Sophia Rakis, Lily Fortin.
SAVES: NDP—Emme Martin 3; GCS—Natalie Eastwood 7.