GFS senior Isabella Didio registered a goal and an assist in last week’s Friends Schools League championship game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The host Tigers of Germantown Friends came on strong in the closing minutes of last Friday’s Friends School’s League lacrosse final, but they couldn’t overcome a strong start by second-seeded Friends’ Central, which prevailed 10-8 to capture the title for the third year in a row. The City Line Avenue school has earned each of those honors against the Tigers.

Top-seeded GFS, which won the FSL crown back in 2009, gave up the first three goals of the afternoon and later trailed by five points three times during the second half. Three consecutive goals in the last six-and-a-half minutes were not enough to enable the Tigers to erase their earlier deficit.

Undefeated against league rivals up to that point, GFS emerged from Friday’s setback with a slightly less impressive overall mark of 17-3.

Friends’ Central, whose only FSL loss came at the hands of the Tigers back in April, took home a 17-4 record along with the championship.

“Friends’ Central was ready to play, and we missed a few opportunities early,” said Germantown mentor Katie Bergstrom Mark. “Clearly, they’re a hard team to come back against; they hold the ball well.”

Speaking of her senior standout Iris Williamson, who will play for the University of Pennsylvania, the Tigers’ coach remarked, “Iris played an absolutely amazing game. She was triple-teamed, quadruple-teamed, and she still had five goals”

Williamson assisted on a sixth marker, as well, and the Tigers received single strikes from fellow seniors Isabella Didio (one assist), Hannah Drake, and Annie Morrissey.

The Friends’ Central Phoenix were powered by five goals and one assist by Ashley Tedesco, and three goals and two assists by Becca Dahle. Dahle, a senior who plays club lacrosse for the same team as Williamson, is going on to perform for Brown, following in the footsteps of FC coach and alumna Lauren Becker Rubin. Tedesco, a junior, has made a verbal commitment to play for Lafayette College.

Dahle’s sophomore sister, Emma, is a rising star for the Phoenix, but she was one element of the FC offense that Germantown Friends was able to contain in the championship game.

As Bergstrom Mark noted, “Katherine Walden, our [junior] defender, marked out Emma Dahle, who had eight goals against us last time, and this time had one goal.”

The Tigers reached the league title bout with an 18-8 semifinal victory over fourth-seeded Moorestown Friends, which had fallen to Germantown by a 19-5 count during the regular season. The Foxes didn’t really fare any better in last week’s rematch in the playoffs, as an eight-goal effort for the Dartmouth-bound Morrissey paved the way for GFS.

The other league semifinal, played on Wednesday afternoon, was more dramatic. Number three Shipley led 7-6 at halftime, but second-seeded Friends’ Central rallied in the second half to eke out a 12-11 victory. The FC Phoenix would move on to face Germantown Friends.

The two schools met exactly one month earlier at GFS in their scheduled regular-season game. The Tigers charged to an 11-6 halftime lead and won 15-13 after staving off a rally led by Emma Dahle, who produced the aforementioned eight-goal effort. Williamson had four goals and four assists for the winners.

Last week, the FC-Shipley league semifinal was postponed from Tuesday to Wednesday due to rain. GFS had gotten its Moorestown match in on Monday, and then had to wait two days to learn which team it would face in the finals. Bergstrom Mark acknowledged that an easy semifinal win, followed by a three-day lay-off, did not work to her team’s advantage.

“Monday – it seems like a month ago to me,” she said after Friday’s championship bout.

Over the first six minutes, Tedesco nailed the top right corner of the Tigers’ cage twice, and Becca Dahle put the visitors up 3-0. After Dahle scored, GFS responded quickly, taking the draw and getting on the board courtesy of Williamson. The hosts almost had the lead down to one a minute later, but a close-range shot by Morrissey was stopped by FC’s junior goalie, Aubrey Faggen (nine saves).

With Germantown down a player due to a penalty, Tedesco completed a hat trick to give the guests a 4-1 lead with 15:36 to go in the first half. Next, the two teams combined for three goals in the space of a minute, as the clock dropped from 13:53 to 13:10. Williamson drove through four Phoenix players to fire the first shot in this sequence, but FC answered with one goal apiece from the Dahle sisters.

The teams then traded points for a 7-3 halftime tally. In the Germantown goal, sophomore Dana Schulman (three saves) had started the contest, but retired to the bench when the visitors went ahead 6-2. The Phoenix had aimed at the upper corners of the cage for most of their early goals, and GFS junior Lauren Shinn (five saves), gave the Tigers a little more height between the pipes.

GFS controlled the opening draw in the second half but quickly lost the ball, and with 42 seconds elapsed Becca Dahle put Friends’ Central up 8-3. All game long, the Tigers had been unable to score back-to-back goals, and their prospects continued to wane as the score seesawed up to 10-5 with seven minutes remaining.

With 6:40 on the clock, Germantown’s late rally was launched by Willaimson, who dashed into the middle of the arc and then faded right to score. FC pocketed the next draw and held the ball for several minutes, despite spirited pursuit by the Tigers. Finally, the home team gained possession with a little under three minutes to go.

FC’s Faggen made a tough stop on a low shot by Drake, but GFS scored with 1:14 remaining to make it 10-7. After Faggen saved Drake’s shot, the Phoenix cleared the ball out, then lost it a little beyond midfield. Didio came down in transition and approached the arc, drawing a foul. On her free position on the left side, she delivered the ball to Morrissey coming around the crease on the right.

When Morrissey’s marker made it a three-goal game, the home team called time-out. Off of the subsequent draw, sophomore Caroline Myran gained possession for GFS. When Williamson scored from a free position on the right side of the arc, the score closed up to 10-8 with 36 ticks to go.

On what would be the final draw of the day, Friends’ Central committed a yellow-card foul and the ball was once again in Myran’s stick. It went from her to Walden to Williamson, who was awarded another free position on the right edge of the arc. She sent a pass inside to Morrissey, but Faggen came up with another key save for the Phoenix as the final seconds clicked away.