Penn Charter’s Avery Shoemaker (lower left) keeps the ball in her crosse even though she’s on the ground with SCH senior Casey Sullivan hovering above. She’s definitely a ninth-grader to watch, along with SCH’s Sinead Brierley. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Near the end, it seemed like last Wednesday’s Inter-Ac League girls lacrosse battle between Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and host Penn Charter would be one of those games in which the last team with the ball would be the victor.

In didn’t quite turn out that way, as SCH was unable to convert on a free position with six seconds left and a goal by PC freshman Avery Shoemaker with 17.1 seconds on the clock held up as the gamewinner.

The final score was 16-15, and it was the only lead the host Quakers enjoyed the entire afternoon. They trailed by as many as seven goals in the first half (twice) before cutting their deficit to four points at halftime. PC pulled even at 13-13 with a little over 17 minutes to go, and then there were two more ties before the decisive strike by Shoemaker, who was one of four players to score four times in the game.

Junior Emma Ebert had four markers for Charter, which improved to 2-3 in the league and 4-5 overall, while Springside Chestnut Hill got four goals each from seniors Casey Sullivan and Libbie Maine, but still slipped to 2-4, 7-7.

There were scoring hat tricks for PC’s Molly Pighini and the Lions’ Kitty Morrissey, both juniors. Quakers junior Allison Rogers, who started both halves in goal, finished with eight saves, and senior Rachel Wiener, who was in the cage for the last 10 minutes of the first period, made two stops. SCH received 11 saves from eighth-grader Elsa Rall.

Taking the opening draw (and the next three, as well), Springside got on the board a minute into the game on a free-position bouncer by Sullivan, and a dozen seconds later Maine assisted classmate Carly Schwartz on a sidearm shot that made it 2-0. Shoemaker drove through the middle of the arc and netted PC’s first goal with three minutes elapsed, but the Lions’ Morrissey and Sullivan each converted off of a free position for a 4-1 tally.

The Quakers climbed right back in contention with a 3-1 spurt in which a lone goal by the Lions’ Maine was outweighed by Charter markers by Pighini, Ebert, and Shoemaker. On this and some of her other goals, Shoemaker displayed sophisticated shot selection and placement for a ninth-grader.

With its lead down to one point (5-4) with 11 minutes left in the half, the SCH attack reasserted itself in a goal-a-minute spree over the next six minutes, with freshmen Sinead Brierley and Francesca Fabiani joining the principal scorers for the visitors. Before the outburst concluded with an 11-4 tally, Charter had called a time-out, and put Wiener in goal in place of the starter, Rogers.

“We just wanted to give her kind of a mental break,” said first-year PC coach Channing Weymouth. “She was coming under a lot of pressure because the other team was tearing right into our defensive eight without getting stopped. We kind of hit rock bottom, so something had to go our way.

“We needed to play tougher defense,” she went on, “but I also wanted the girls to be aware that we already had three yellow cards, so if we got one more we were going to be down a man for the rest of the game. We had to get our feet in position rather than just swinging our sticks on the defensive end, and then we needed to take care of the ball in transition. We needed to clean up a lot of our unforced errors.”

There wasn’t an immediate impact from the peptalk, as a goal by Ebert was matched by SCH’s Sullivan for a 12-5 score. However, Charter gained both momentum and confidence by whipping in three goals in the final 34 seconds of the first half. Shoemaker started the string, then senior Sarah Butler cashed in on a free position with a dozen ticks left on the clock. The real stinger for Springside Chestnut Hill came when sophomore Julia Flemming scored from just off the crease on the left side only half-a-second before the halftime horn.

“That’s when you started to see that they really wanted it, and our girls didn’t rise to that level,” pointed out Lydia Imperiale, the Lions’ second-year skipper. “We came out really strong and set the tone early in the game, and then we relaxed and sort of grew complacent.”

The Quakers built on the offensive surge that ended the first half. As the second period got underway, they scored the first three goals, and then two of the next three, tying the match at 13-all with 11:17 left to play.

“Penn Charter got more draws and just had a lot more possession in the second half,” said SCH’s Imperiale. “They were playing tough defense and really pressuring our attack, and we didn’t handle that with composure. We didn’t get the looks that we had in the first half, and that kind of paralyzed us.”

Still, as the scoreboard clock continued to click away, Penn Charter couldn’t get over the hump and take the lead. Maine flipped the ball into the Quakers’ cage from six meters out in the middle, nudging SCH ahead 14-13 with 10:34 left to play. Charter captured the next draw, then quickly turned the ball over, but although the Lions kept possession for the next three minutes, they were unable to add to their lead.

From just beyond the top of the eight meter loop PC’s Ebert slipped a pass inside, hitting sophomore Leigh Steinberg coming out around the crease on the left. With 5:53 showing, the score was even at 14-all, but the visitors would forge ahead one last time. Picking off a floating Penn Charter pass in the midfield, Maine went up along the right edge of the eight-meter loop and sent the ball across the arc to fellow senior Ellie Stout, who scored from a few feet off the crease with 3:59 to go.

From the same relative location at the other end of the field, sophomore Lauren Flemming pulled PC even at 15-15, with the clock now down to 1:41. On a foul off the draw the ball was given to Maine of SCH, but the visitors’ possession ended with a missed shot and the Quakers took over with half-a-minute to play.

“Late in the game there were times when we didn’t take care of the ball and we didn’t make smart decisions,” commented the Lions’ Imperiale.

Charter came up the field and Butler got the ball to Shoemaker out to the right of the goal, and she drove in to sink a low shot with 17.1 seconds remaining. What proved to be the final draw of the day was pocketed by Brierley, but off of a free position in the arc with 6.1 seconds left the Lions’ last shot was blocked and the ball ended up on the ground.

This season Penn Charter has been a team without a dominant superstar, but Weymouth was pleased to point out “Leaders are emerging and that’s making a big difference. The players are taking control of what’s happening out there.”