Believe the hype.
The St. Margaret’s girls’ lacrosse team proved to be as good as advertised by defeating Mater Dei in a tight fight that lived up to all expectations. Whether rooting for the Tartans or the Monarchs, the fans on the sideline were treated with a display of great lacrosse.
For the visiting Tartans, whose season was ended by their hosts in last May’s OC semifinal, the victory was especially sweet. Before detailing the game, let’s give a tip of the cap to Mater Dei for their dynasty of nearly three years without a loss in Orange County.
The first half was sliced down the middle, with Mater Dei absolutely dominating the first ten minutes and St. Margaret’s owning the final ten, with a little back and forth in between. Monarch senior Sydney Payne snagged the opening draw and as her team settled into the offense, the SMES defense was aggressively attacking. Mater Dei played patiently and confidently, earning a few scoring chances that were foiled by great Tartan crashes and late desperation checks. After a four-minute possession, Mater Dei junior Peyton Smith fed cutting junior Gianna Danese who received in traffic and netted the first of the evening.
Mater Dei dominated the draw, and St. Margaret’s did not possess the ball for any of the first nine minutes. By the time Mater Dei forced a time out, they were up by four. In the streak, Smith bounced a free position home, junior Tess Keiser did the same-and followed with a strong drive, face dodge, and goal.
Coming off the timeout, the Tartan adjustments worked, as they took down their first draw of the game behind senior Cailin Young, who took all remaining draws for her squad. Junior Maddie Barkate earned a free position and fired a wicked shot, but goalie Lily Molkara was up to the challenge as she picked the ball up off her toes. The St Margaret’s ride earned a turnover moments later, and in the following possession, junior Niki Miles rolled the crease, pulled out of pressure and found senior Alexis Singleton cutting into the heart of the 8M for the quick strike to put the visitors on the board. Less than a minute later, SMES sophomore Campbell Case roasted the upper corner of the Monarch cage but followed through dangerously and earned a yellow card. No goal.
St. Margaret’s almost killed the penalty, but fifteen seconds before release, Mater Dei’s Smith danced nimbly through a crashing defense, dropped her stick, and shot back against the grain to put the lead back at four. It was the biggest lead Mater Dei would see for the rest of the night.
Miles struck again ninety seconds later with a low floater from a free position drive. In the midst of five draw wins, the Tartans attacked relentlessly. But Molkara had the answer with a couple clutch saves, including an instinctive kick-save.
Still, the Tartans offense started to cycle naturally and the attack generated a number of scoring chances as St. Margaret’s chipped away at the lead. With just under six minutes in the half, senior Kinsale Hueston assisted from a free position to a sneaky Case cutting from behind and making the shot look easy. In a moment of déjà vu, Miles made the same free position feed and Case torched the far corner with a sharp angle scorcher. After some back and forth, the Tartans held the ball for the final shot but the home team defended the fort and kept the ball out of their 8M
Halftime score, 5-4, Mater Dei.
The lead had a short shelf life out of the break, as St. Margaret’s opened with three straight goals, taking a lead that they would not give up for the rest of the game.
Less than a minute into the half, Barkate drove into space and fired a shot to tie the game. SMES continued to dominate the draw, and at one moment Case dodged hard and punished the pipe with a scary-hard shot. Freshman Jordan Miles got in on the action when she drove off a free position, dropped her stick, and flicked the shot home. Her sister, Niki, not to be outdone, bounced a shot in from a free position to earn her team a 7-5 lead.
Mater Dei took down the ensuing draw on an illegal entry violation, and Danese stopped the Tartan run at three with a low bouncer. St. Margaret’s won the next draw and Barkate drove, slipped her defender, face dodged the slide, and shot high-to-low to bring their lead back to two.
After this intense four minutes of nonstop scoring, each team went back and forth, each riding hard, and each earning turnovers. Mater Dei sophomore Georgia Glowaki ended the four-minute scoring drought by rolling the crease, fighting through her defender, splitting the double, and ripping the shot.
A minute and a half later, a streaking Barkate attacked the Mater Dei goal on a straight line, and rifled an unstoppable shot. Each team fought through a couple tough rides, traded turnovers, and ultimately Mater Dei was able to settle. Glowaki went to work on the crease, pulled out of pressure, and threaded the needle to Smith for the fluid finish.
Halfway through the second, St. Margaret’s up by one, 9-8.
The Tartans claimed the ensuing draw, and after settling, J. Miles attacked through three defenders and got a lucky bounce on the shot to score her second of the night.
The next five minutes showcased the only sloppy lacrosse of the night, with a handful of drops, missed passes, and turnovers. Young put an end to weak lacrosse when she took a feed, attacked the gut of the Monarch D, and buried a monstrous shot.
Mater Dei took down the next draw, and as the draw went, so went the game. Smith converted a free position with a bouncer, and after riding a lost draw hard and earning the quick turnover, Mater Dei junior Anna Rolfes squirted through strong defensive pressure, drove along GLE, and snookered the shot into the far, low corner.
One-goal game with three minutes to go.
Young took down the one-hand self-draw and SMES spread the offense. As Mater Dei pressed and doubled, the Tartans showed off their stick skills with a checkers double jump from J. Miles to Barkate up high to N. Miles down low who sealed the victory.
Mater Dei broke the Tartan stall and made a few runs at the goal, but could not conjure the late-game miracle.
This young 2018 season has brought fans a number of tight games between great teams, but this was arguably the finest display of sheer lacrosse talent thus far.