Put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lacrosse rivalry involving Greenwich Academy and Sacred Heart Greenwich resumed on Saturday and the matchup was as intense as ever.
Goals were tough to come by, with both teams playing tight defense, while receiving strong goaltending and the much-anticipated game between the longtime neighborhood rivals was close throughout.
And with the game hanging in the balance, Greenwich Academy seniors Margaret Maruszewski and Paige Lipman swung the momentum in GA’s favor.
Maruszewski scored a game-high five goals, while Lipman recorded a hat trick to propel Greenwich Academy past visiting Sacred Heart, 8-6, in a well-played game. The Gators’ midfielders/co-captains accounted for all of their team’s goals.
“It’s an really feeling,” Maruszewski said. “There was high intensity out there, which comes with a lot of effort, teamwork and composure. Our team brought the energy today and got the result we wanted. We’ve been working really hard to turn around our season and today was a pivotal point.”
Greenwich Academy (2-3) defeated Sacred Heart for the first time in several seasons. The Tigers beat the Gators in 2019 and 2018.
“Today was a highlight, Sacred Heart is a great team,” GA co-head coach Melissa Anderson said. “We’ve had trouble beating them the past couple of years, so for us it’s an emotional and high stakes game. We have had trouble staying composed, so this was a real test. We took a moment to think about May 1, 2020 and it was a low time and that we now have to make the most of our opportunities.”
Senior Grace Lillis scored two goals, while junior Franny O’Brien had two goals and one assist for Sacred Heart (3-2). The rivals entered halftime in a 4-4 tie.
“The rivalry is awesome and the competition is great,” Sacred Heart coach Alyson Costigan said. “The girls were super excited for this game and worked really hard.”
Both goalies made saves in key moments. Senior Rachel Keefe made 10 saves in goal for the Tigers, who like GA were sound defensively, throughout.
“We definitely had some good unit defense around the eight, we struggled a little bit clearing wise and that’s something we’ll continue to work on and hopefully adjust for the next time we see them,” Costigan.
Sophomore Rebecca Arpano had five saves for GA, two of which came late in the second half.
“To see Rebecca step up at the end of the game with a couple of huge saves, that was big,” Anderson said.
O’Brien scored the game’s first goal, converting a free position shot with 21:28 left in the first half. Lillis tallied off a pass from O’Brien, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead at the 19:56 mark of the first half. Maruszewski began her impressive offensive game, making her free position attempt with 18:04 to go in the opening half, cutting Sacred Heart’s lead to 2-1. She evened the score at 2-2 with a goal at the first halves’ 12:58 mark.
A free position tally by Lillis put the Tigers on top, 3-2, then Maruszewski knotted the score again with a goal off a pass by junior Ava Butz with 3:13 left in the first half. O’Brien’s second goal off the game gave the Tigers a 4-3 edge with 1:54 to go in the opening half. Lipman sent GA into halftime tied when she tallied with just 39.7 seconds remaining, making it 4-4. Senior Lila Murray helped set up Greenwich Academy’s scoring possession with a caused turnover.
“We’ve been working super hard in practice, we’ve had a little rocky start and we have a young team, but today we came out and performed super well,” Lipman said. “Everything we worked in practice was implemented into this game and everyone should be so happy.”
Both teams displayed patience on offense, as they had to work extra hard for shots on goal.
“Normally we have been struggling with possession and keeping our composure, so I thought today we were good about holding the ball and not forcing passes,” GA senior attack Brecon Welch said. “It is a momentum-builder. After the Darien loss (on Wednesday) it was tough, but coming out for this game everyone gave their best effort and to pull out a win is very exciting.”
Trailing 5-4 after a Sacred Heart goal, Maruszewski tallied the equalizer at the 19:47 mark of the second half. Lipman gave GA its first lead of the game by scoring with 13:07 remaining and the Gators took a 7-5 lead when Lipman scored on a bouncing shot with 12:26 to go. Senior Hannah Dempsey brought SHG to within 7-6 with a goal at the 5:40 mark, but Maruszewski made it a two-goal game again by tallying with 3:46 left to play.
“Working together is a big thing and I think for these big games, what is really important is how you come together as a team, instead of playing individually,” said Dempsey, a captain/midfielder. “Every single person on our team has talent and we have to figure out how to put that talent together and go forward.”
Said Lillis, also a captain: “We just need to work on the little things, staying composed when we’re under pressure. Everyone put in a ton of effort, it was a good battle, we just have to make sure we are staying composed and making smart decisions with the ball.”
Ellie Burdick, Butz, Ellie Johnson, Murray, Alessia Packard and Welch each forced a turnover for Greenwich Academy. Packard, Murray and Johnson helped pace the Gators’ strong defensive effort.
“We’ve had a lot of tough games and a hard start to the season, but everyone has kept up the morale,’ Maruszewski said. “Everyone has been motivated to keep working and no one has hung their head and given up. That says a lot about the character of our team. We also have some competitive games coming up, so I’m excited about what’s to come.”
Dempsey and O’Brien had two draw controls apiece, while Lauren Giuriceo gathered six ground balls for the Tigers.
“It was awesome to be out there, especially after last year not being able to play last year and I wasn’t able to play my sophomore year either, because I was injured,” Lillis said. “We haven’t been on GA’s turf since our freshman year, so we’re lucky to have the opportunity to be playing.”
GA and Sacred Heart will meet again on May 12 at Sacred Heart. Game time is 4:30 p.m.
“It’s awesome that we can play them twice, because we can go from this game, fix our mistakes and come out even stronger next time,” Dempsey said.
Indeed, the athletes in Saturday’s matchup couldn’t be happier to be on the field testing their skills against each other.
“We love playing Sacred Heart, I feel so lucky today to be out here on the field, especially since last year I was sitting at my house all alone,” Lipman said. “Just playing today felt so good and it was so much fun.”