The Perry Hall Gators lost out on a chance to face ten times state champions Severna Park last week, when they lost their Class 4A-3A North Region final to Catonsville. The girls’ lacrosse team entered the comets’ den knowing Catonsville were looking for revenge.
Back in April, on the 12th to be precise, Perry Hall took Catonsville to overtime and eked out a 17-16 victory over the Comets. This served only to provoke the Comets and they went on to record 11-straight victories. As a result, Catonsville ended up with a 17-1 record compared to Perry Hall’s 10-4. This lead to Catonsville being given home advantage in their playoff final.
Perry Hall coach, Kristen Arseneau put the result down to one major deficiency in their play; the draw. As she said, “no draw, no possession and no chance for a goal and you can’t do much after that.” Nope, Perry Hall could not do much as Catonsville junior, Deb Milani won seven out of the first eight draws to help the Comets race into a 7-1 lead. Their goals came from a Rachel Schwaab treble, a brace from Lauren McDonald and singles from Milani and Claudia Flister.
The draw occurs when two girls standoff at the start of a play. It is much like the start of a basketball match, only in basketball the standoff starts each quarter and after a basket is scored, the defending team get to start the next play. In Lacrosse the girls stand with the backs of their sticks facing each other while the umpire places a ball between those sticks. This is repeated after every goal.
Kara Taylor made an assist for Lauren Vandaniker to pull one back for Perry Hall before half-time, but their hopes were not to last long as Schwaab scored her fourth to restore their six goal advantage with 12 minutes left to halftime. Less than a minute later, the Gator’s Maggie Carr pulled another one back and then Kristen Meehan and Brittany Pallardy made some great team play to turn the draw to their advantage. The pair fed Aniya Flanagan, who found herself in a free position to shoot. Comet’s goalie, Grace Campbell was not about to let her cut the deficit to four and made a great save, one of four in the first half. The ball found its way to Nonn of the Comet’s who got the ball out of danger.
Moments later Campbell and Milani this time teamed up to block another free position shot from the Gators. It was at this point Perry Hall must have realized it was not going to be their day. While Arseneau insister Perry Hall went into the game as confident as they could, they were unable to stop Nonn scoring to make it 9-3, although Flanagan did make good on a second bite at the cherry to cut the score to 9-4. It did little good, however, as two more Comet steals at the draw saw Milani get her second of the match and McDonald her third.
With the score 11-4 at halftime, the Gators came out firing. They needed a small miracle to get back in the game. Ultimately, however, they were not to get it. The Comet’s defense, marshaled by goalie Campbell then managed to keep the Gators out for 22 and a half minutes, which all but ended Perry Hall’s chances of getting back in the game. So good was the defending that only the best would find a way through.
At the same time, Catonsville kept scoring to make the lead unassailable. In the end Milani and Schwaab both finished with five goals apiece, while as a team they managed 18 to the Gators’ 6. The Comets’ coach talking from a dressing room that benefits from the best amateur interior design put their victory down to team unity and excellent draw play from Milani, while Arseneau conceded that Perry Hall’s attempts to mark Schwaab and Milani out of the game failed miserably, though not for a lack of effort on the part of Perry Hall’s girls, who played to their best, but were just beaten by a better team.
The Comets then advanced to the state semifinal playoff game against Severna Park. Severna advanced to the game after a testing few weeks. Grief stricken by the passing of teammate, Tracy Vander Kolk, the team overcame South River 8-5. The result was all the more remarkable as the match took place only hours after Vander Kolk’s viewing. Severna Park kept themselves on course for an 11th State Championship when they beat the Comets 15-10 in the state semifinal. Once again Milani dominated the early draws, but Severna Park were able to hold on then dominate and in no small part due to Vander Kolk’s twin sister Rachel, who played in goal for much of the match after first choice goalie King, retired injured.