When neighborhood lacrosse rivals Greenwich Academy and Sacred Heart Greenwich faced each other on May 1, it was an intense matchup that was decided by only two goals.
The Gators and Tigers tangled again Wednesday in a late-season game and the action was just as intense, while the score was even closer.
Overcoming an early three-goal deficit, Greenwich Academy seized a four-goal lead, then withstood a Sacred Heart surge in the final minutes to register an exciting 11-10 victory.
The win was the fourth straight for GA (5-3), which defeated Sacred Heart, 8-6, in the team’s first meeting of the season.
“We were down 3-0 at the beginning of the first half, but we didn’t let that get into our heads and we played harder,” GA senior midfielder/co-captain Paige Lipman said. “We took a deep breath and we knew we could get back into our game. Everyone snapped back into it and played our game. It was a great team win and I’m so proud of everyone.”
Lipman and senior midfielder Margaret Maruszewski, also a co-captain, powered the Gators’ offense. They scored four goals apiece and helped Greenwich Academy carry the momentum, after falling behind in the opening minutes of the first half.
“This game always means a lot to the whole team, but especially to our seniors,” GA co-coach Melissa Anderson said. “Before this season, we hadn’t defeated Sacred Heart for a few years, so this was very important to our seniors.”
Junior Maddie Holden scored two goals, while Ellie Burdick, also a junior, added one goal for the victors, which received five saves from sophomore goalie Rebecca Arpano. Sacred Heart (5-4) got a spark off the bench from freshman attack Kaitlin Robinson, who recorded a hat trick. Junior Franny O’Brien totaled two goals and two assists, while senior midfielder/tri-captain Hannah Dempsey had two goals and one assist for the Tigers.
“Our energy ebbed and flowed throughout the game,” Sacred Heart coach Aly Costigan said. “We had some high points and then some low ones, so we just really need to play a full 60 minutes. But I’m super proud of the team for coming on strong in the end and I wish we had more time on the clock. I’m proud of them for persevering and being resilient throughout the game.”
After Sacred Heart seized a 3-0 lead, GA scored eight of the next nine goals to open an 8-4 advantage. Holden’s tally with 9:50 remaining in the first half gave the Gators their first lead of the game at 4-3. Holden scored again at the 4:36 mark, making it 5-3, then Maruszewski spun away from a pair of defenders and put a short shot past Tigers senior goalie Rachel Keefe, putting GA on top, 6-3 late in the first half.
O’Brien’s scored off a pass from behind the net, bringing Sacred Heart to within 6-4 38 seconds into the second half, but GA took a four-goal edge on a free position tally from Lipman and a goal by Burdick. Robinson intercepted a pass, dashed down the field and scored on a breakaway, cutting the Gators’ advantage to 8-5 and Lipman made it 9-5 with a goal off a dodge at the 14:01 mark of the second half.
Greenwich Academy began the season 1-3, but has found its chemistry and has clicked on both ends of the field during its four-game winning streak.
“We’ve had a couple of losses, but in practice we come ready to work,” Lipman said. “Our defense has gotten so much stronger and aggressive. One thing we work on is going the extra 10 percent everywhere on the field and we did that today.”
Senior Lila Murray, senior Alessia Packard and sophomore Ellie Johnson helped solidify Greenwich Academy’s defense in front of Arpano, who made key saves in each half.
“It felt great to be out there and compete against Sacred Heart,” Murray said. “We have such a fun time in all sports and this rivalry is really fun. It’s great to be out here with my teammates, since we lost last year. We are all really grateful to be out there and we had a lot of energy and spirit.”
Strong, effective practices have contributed to GA turning its season around, Murray noted.
“As we keep practicing, we pick each other up and I think that energy plays a huge role in our games and how we connect with each other on the field,” Murray said. “We’ve been all in during the season in our practices and games.”
Trailing 11-7, Sacred Heart made it a one-goal game on goals by Robinson, O’Brien and junior Dylan Drury. Drury’s goal came with 2:37 left to play.
“We’ve been working a lot on finishing games this year,” Costigan said. “Having the mentality of sticking together and playing to the end is our mindset, so I’m super proud of the team for finishing out the game the best they could.”
Keefe, a senior captain, made 11 saves for Sacred Heart, while senior captain/midfielder Grace Lillis had five draw controls.
“We just made some small mistakes that they capitalized on,” Lillis said. “It was super competitive and super close, but like last time we have to clean up our small mistakes. We got the momentum at the end and we have to work on keeping our momentum throughout the game and not letting it drop off at all.”
Added Robinson: “We were all really excited to play this game and we were pumped to play our rivals. As a freshman on the team, it’s been awesome, it’s been the best experience ever. I love my teammates, they are so supportive with everything. My coaches and the girls on the team have taught me a lot.”
Junior Ava Butz had a goal, while Lipman had three draw controls and Burdick had two in the winning effort.
“It is a game of energy and emotion,” Anderson said. “This is such a fun rivalry. Two games this season could have gone either way. I thought our defense was solid throughout. They were really communicating well and anticipating.”
Said Murray: “They are a great team and the put us to the test. For us on defense. the key today was trusting each other and communicating, because we work as a unit and that’s something we’ve been working on in practice as well.”