Irvine – The Mater Dei girls lacrosse team hasn’t lost to an Orange County team in over two years. Coming into Saturday’s U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division semifinal, the Monarchs had won 23 consecutive games against Orange County opponents dating back to 2016.
Mater Dei’s 24th consecutive win over an Orange County opponent almost never came.
The Monarchs had to survive a furious comeback from St. Margaret’s in the second half, as they edged the Tartans 9-8 on Saturday at Portola High School. Top-seeded Mater Dei advances to the county championship match, where it will play second seed Foothill. The Knights breezed past Newport Harbor 10-3 in the other semifinal.
“Not our best, but St. Margaret’s has really improved since last year,” Mater Dei coach Cressita Bowman said.
The two teams met earlier in the year, where the Monarchs won 15-8 at St. Margaret’s. This time it was a lot closer.
The Tartans and the Monarchs each traded goals in the first half, and found themselves tied 4-4 at halftime. It wouldn’t have been 4-4 had it not been for McKenzie Wallevand tying the game up at the end of the first half.
Wallevand didn’t play the entire game against St. Margaret’s the first time around, as she hurt her knee against St. Margaret’s the first time around. This time, Wallevand proved to be the difference-maker.
With the game tied at 5-5 in the second half, Wallevand scored two consecutive goals to give Mater Dei a 7-5 lead. After St. Margaret’s got a goal from Cameron Manor to make it 7-6, Wallevand scored again to make it 8-6. The Monarchs extended their lead to 9-6 at the 12:19 mark of the second half thanks to a goal from Grace Houser.
St. Margaret’s wouldn’t go away easily, as it closed the gap to 9-8 with goals from Audrey Larson and Manor. The Tartans won the next draw and got a good look, but goalie Courtney Walburger came up with a huge save allowing the Monarchs to run down the clock, as the Monarchs are now one win away from protecting its county championship title.
“Kenzie has always been a great player. Obviously, she’s one of the key components to make everything work and we’re really lucky to have her,” Houser said about Wallevand.
Wallevand led Mater Dei (14-5) with four goals followed by Houser with three goals. Houser also had three assists while Lauren Gonzales and Peyton Smith each had one goal apiece. Walburger made eight saves for Mater Dei.
For the Tartans (13-6), Niki Miles had three goals with Manor and Maddie Barkate adding two goals apiece. Larson finished with one goal and goalie Ellie Jones had six saves for St. Margaret’s which made the semifinals for the first time since 2007.
The Monarchs will look to repeat as back to back county champs, as they play a Foothill team that has won eight consecutive games.
“I think we need to stay together as a team and play as a team, not be individual. If we are together, we are unstoppable,” Wallevand said.