With “GRIT” in huge letters on the back of their warm-up shirts, Towson’s girls lacrosse players carried a constant reminder all season of what it would take to reach the state final four this spring after falling in the past two quarterfinal rounds.
The No. 11 Generals earned the top seed in Wednesday’s quarterfinals and wasted no time overwhelming eighth-seeded Catonsville. They scored the first six goals, including four before the Comets had possession, to spark a 13-4 win and earn their first trip to the Class 3A state semifinals since 2008.
“We choose a word every year,” senior attacker Avery Briggs said, “and grit just means sticking to everything, working hard, never letting up and that’s just been our motto the entire year… This is crazy. We’ve never been this far and it’s a great feeling, having worked hard for four years.”
Briggs had three goals and four assists to lead the Generals (13-1) as they aim for their first state championship since 1997. The Baltimore County champions will meet fourth-seeded Linganore, a 16-9 winner over Northern of Calvert County, in the state semifinals Friday or Saturday at a time and site to be determined.
The host Generals won seven of ten draws in the first half, including the first five. They played stellar team attack with 11 assisted goals, including three of the first four.
Grace Lintz, Jillian McNulty, Mary Claire Heubeck and Briggs gave the Generals a 4-0 lead in less than three and a half minutes with assists from Finlay Harmon, Brigid Vaikness and Briggs. Briggs made it 5-0 by converting a Catonsville turnover and then fed Harmon for a 6-0 lead with 16:12 left in the first half.
“Our coach said just go out in the first five minutes and set the tempo of the game,” Briggs said, “so we had motivation to go through the whole game without ever being, ‘Uh oh, we need to step it up.’ We just knew we were going to lead the whole time.”
The Comets (7-9) lost to Towson, 16-12, last month, but they couldn’t get any traction after the Generals’ initial outburst although freshman goalie Gabby Gray had six saves and midfielder Lilly Antonelli had a couple of caused turnovers.
“I think [Towson’s] really good on the draw,” Comets coach Cantey Bailey said. “They’re fast on the draw and that’s really what we were struggling with. In order to get the ball on offense, we had to cause a turnover on defense and they’re a very talented team, so that’s not happening as much.”
The Comets cut the lead to four with back-to-back goals from Casey Fisher, who finished with three, but they would never get closer.
All the motivation the Generals have been building since last season’s quarterfinal loss to eventual state champ Marriotts Ridge, channeled right into their quick start and strong team approach.
“We have a really big senior class, so I think we’re all like, ‘This is our last year and we have to put it all out there,’ and it’s been a great team effort,” Vaikness, a senior midfielder, said, “Throughout the whole year, we’ve been working together and we have really good team chemistry which I think keeps us on the same page.”
Eight Generals scored and six dished out assists. Harmon, Huebeck and Gabi Galvez scored twice each while Chloe Gibson had three assists.
Despite the strong offensive game, Towson coach Taylor Carhart gave the game ball to her defensive unit of Tessa Snyder, Charlotte Ross, Elise Longanecker, Hannah Mazhari and Claire Boudreaux as well as goalies Lucy Buttarazzi and Meghan Cottrell.
Cottrell, who played in the second half, made all three of her saves after the Generals picked up four yellow cards in less than three minutes. They were two players down for three minutes and at least one player down for the rest of the game, but the defense did not allow a goal until Abby Tartal scored with 39 seconds left.
“Both my goalies, to only allow four goals is awesome,” Carhart said. “I told them, if we can keep a team under 10, we will win the game because we will score. To keep them under five, that’s incredible.”
CLASS 3A STATE QUARTERFINALS
NO. 11 TOWSON 13, CATONSVILLE 4
Catonsville 2 2 — 4
Towson 7 6 — 13
GOALS: C—Casey Fisher 3, Abby Tartal; T—Avery Briggs 3, Finlay Harmon 2, Mary Claire Heubeck 2, Gabi Galvez 2, Grace Lintz, Chloe Gibson, Jillian McNulty, Leila Mazhari.
ASSISTS: C—Abby Tartal; T—Avery Briggs 4, Chloe Gibson 3, Finlay Harmon, Brigid Vaikness, Grace Lintz, Gabi Galvez.
SAVES: C—Gabby Gray 6; T—Lucy Butterazzi 2, Meghan Cottrell 3.