Just before its short Easter break began last week, Glenelg Country School’s No. 4 girls lacrosse team slipped past Georgetown Visitation by one goal, a victory they hoped would be the same kind of spark for the second half of the season as a goal just before halftime can be in a game.
The spark certainly carried over to the start of Tuesday’s Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference game against No. 5 Archbishop Spalding. Scoring the first four goals gave the Dragons the room they needed to take a 13-11 victory over the visiting Cavaliers, the highest ranked opponent the Dragons have faced.
Glenelg Country (8-0 overall, 7-0 conference) is one of just two teams left unbeaten in the A Conference along with No. 1 McDonogh (9-1, 8-0), whose only loss is a one-goal decision to Georgetown Visitation. The Dragons, however, had the easier part of the schedule early, something that allowed them to settle in after graduating 14 seniors.
“I look at the season like two halves,” Dragons coach Paige Walton said, “so we had the first half up until Visitation and then we had this little holiday break and now get into the second half and the second half of the season is tough for us. We play all the tough teams and going into this game (against Spalding), now we’re playing the top of the A (Conference), so getting up by four in this game was extremely huge.”
Jess Doreen, Lilly Fortin and Blair Byrne scored in the first three and a half minutes and Sophia Rakis fed Katie Gorski for a 4-0 lead with 14 minutes, 47 seconds left in the half.
“Once we have a groove going, we can always get it moving really fast and we can get our momentum going,” Fortin said, “but No. 1 on their team (Gabby Greene) had a lot of quick goals to shift the momentum, so it kind of went back and forth.”
Greene scored five goals, several in transition, and the Cavaliers (6-5, 5-3) chipped away at the lead, but the Dragons ran it to 13-8 when Blair Byrne fed her twin Regan Byrne with 6:40 left in the game.
With Spalding gaining momentum, especially from its transition offense, the Dragons needed key defensive plays down the stretch to hold off the Cavaliers’ rally. Defenders Ashley Dyer and Ella Dyer each caused a turnover.
Goalie Natalie Eastwood made two of her 10 saves over the next three minutes before Spalding’s Maeve Cavanaugh, Lily Mullen and Clare McGuire scored consecutive goals in about a minute and a half. In the final seconds, the junior goalie ran down a high Spading shot to win possession at the end line.
“Coming out and making the stops, I feel like she’s done that in a lot of our games like when we played Visitation, she had these key saves at the end of the game,” Walton said. “She makes great saves all the time, but some of them are right when we need them and coming out and getting that ball, she’s such a smart player.”
Blair Byrne, who led the Dragons with four goals, said their success is great but the team is still a work in progress.
“I would say it’s just building up,” she said. “We’re a young team this year and it’s just the more that we practice together, the more that we feel each other out and know what everyone’s strengths are, that’s where we’re going to build… Once the young players are as confident as they can be and we’re all at our best, I think that’s where we’re going to keep growing.”
Spalding, whose other two losses were to No. 1 McDonogh and No. 2 and defending A Conference champ St. Paul’s, has come close but just hasn’t been able to finish off a big upset. Greene and Ally Keith caught the Dragons off guard with their speed and transition goals Tuesday, but the Cavaliers needed a stronger start.
“We have a lot of good girls and a lot of hustle. We just didn’t find the fire early on,” Keith said, “and I think being down at halftime really motivated us to come out second half even harder. We knew this team was going to be really good, but we needed to work together. In the beginning, we made a lot of errors and turned the ball over a lot instead of finding each other.”
NO. 4 GLENELG COUNTRY SCHOOL 13, NO. 5 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 11
Spalding 4 7 — 11
Glenelg CS 7 6 — 13
GOALS: GCS—Blair Byrne 4, Lilly Fortin 3, Regan Byrne 2, Maggie Flanagan, Sophia Rakis, Jess Doreen, Katie Gorski; AS—Gabby Greene 5, Maeve Cavanaugh 2, Ally Keith 2, Clare McGuire, Lily Mullen.
ASSISTS: GCS—Blair Byrne 2, Lilly Fortin, Regan Byrne, Sophia Rakis; AS—None.
SAVES: GCS—Natalie Eastwood 10; AS—Colleen Berardino 3.