Last year was supposed to be the one in which history would be made.
As Archbishop Carroll’s girls’ lacrosse team plowed through most of its schedule with relative ease, Archbishop Wood lurked nearby with a look of disdain. The veteran Vikings wanted to be the first Catholic League team in nine seasons to defeat Carroll, and their experience and confidence indicated that it was a very real possibility.
But Carroll won the much-anticipated regular-season meeting 9-8 with a miraculous goal in the closing seconds, and then in the playoffs the Patriots won convincingly, 16-8.
“That was a challenge, and we were able to overcome it,” said 11th year Carroll coach Lorraine Beers. “Wood had a very nice team and had a great season.”
Many of the players from last year’s Wood team graduated, so, unless an unforeseen squad emerges from virtually nowhere to present a challenge, it appears as though a 10 th straight season of Carroll perfection awaits the rest of the Catholic League.
Although Carroll dropped three non-league games early on, its competition was Vero Beach of Florida, Loyola Academy of Illinois and Notre Dame Prep of Maryland. Each of those teams is among the nation’s elite, particularly fourth-ranked Vero Beach.
Playing without several girls who were unable to make the trip down south to St. Petersburg, the Patriots fell behind early but managed to be outscored only 7-5 in the second half. Seniors Aimee Gennaro and Genni Hull scored two goals apiece.
Adding honorable mention All-American junior sensation Hannah Schmitt (54 goals; 16 in three post-season contests for the PIAA District 12 champs), energetic junior Alyssa DiBona and senior attacker Margo Lesher to the mix should be more than enough for Carroll to win a 10th consecutive crown.
“We graduated some attackers, but there are players looking forward to getting their chance,” Beers said. “That’s what is nice about a new season.”
That said, eighth-year Archbishop Wood coach Chris Aquilino, lauded by Beers for his dedication and teaching ability, will no doubt help his Vikings steadily improve now through May.
Against neighborhood rival Council Rock North last week, the Vikings led 5-3 at halftime but were unable to overcome youthful errors against a powerful CRN squad, losing a hard-fought 9-6 decision.
However, sophomore goaltender Emily Hutson was strong in net, especially considering her lack of game experience.
Wood’s top player, Cait Mc- Cartney, who somehow was named only second-team All-Catholic last year despite posting 65 goals and 77 points, was encouraged by what she saw.
“We did some good things but made some mistakes,” said McCartney. “We’re still learning as a team, and we’ll keep getting better and give it everything we have.”
While Wood is likely the only threat to dethrone the Patriots, the Catholic League is dotted with several returning All-Catholics who aim to leave their mark.
First-teamers include seniors Ashley Pope of Conwell-Egan and Courtney Niemiec of Little Flower, along with Carroll’s aforementioned senior Hull and junior Schmitt, who was named the league’s most valuable player as a sophomore.
Along with McCartney on the second team were sophomore Alyssa Andress of Archbishop Wood and seniors Lindsay McArdle of Cardinal O’Hara, Mallory Smith of Cardinal Dougherty and Amy Gennaro of Carroll. On the honorable mention team were seniors Julia Delong of St. Hubert, Sarah Means of Archbishop Ryan and Cardinal O’Hara’s Megan George and Alicia Govannicci.
Although not on the All-Catholic team last year, several performers have already displayed enough firepower to be considered likely candidates this time around.
In a recent lopsided non-league victory over Penn Wood, Archbishop Prendergast’s Kathy Flanagan scored five goals while teammates Lauren Thomas (three goals), Emily Sheehan (three assists) and goalie Madeline Scepansky (21 saves) aided the cause.
In a 13-7 loss to Sun Valley, O’Hara’s Megan George scored four goals among the Lions’ 25 shots on goal. In a 13-8 victory over George School, Conwell-Egan’s Katrina Bruehl netted four goals and teammate Ashley Pope added three. And in a 13-6 triumph over Germantown Academy, Wood’s Nicole Hayes tallied three goals and Andress scored a pair to go along with the typical five goals from scoring machine McCartney.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.