Baltimore girls lax teams fall short in UA playoffs

by Nelson Coffin

There have been better days for the Baltimore girls teams when playing at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Weekend.

On Sunday, in a day in which temperatures soared close to triple digits under an unrelenting sun, both the Command and Highlight squads were ousted from the 2018 edition of the event held annually at Towson University.

The Highlights took it on the chin from Philadelphia, bowing, 8-5, to their northern neighbors.

Both of Baltimore’s losses this summer were to Philly, which seemed to have the local team’s number.

Still, rising senior attacker Victoria Hensch (Marriotts Ridge) had a banner day for the Charm City crew, scoring four goals against rising senior goalie Mariah Sweeney (Hill School), who finished with six saves and turned away at least three free position opportunities.

Rising senior midfielder Shayan Ahearn (Glenelg Country School) was the only other Baltimorean to solve Sweeney, a Delaware commit.

Ahearn and Hensch were part of the squad that was nicknamed “Terp Nation,” given their commitment to play their college lax in College Park under Maryland coach Cathy Reese.

Rising senior midfielders Emma Tilson (McDonogh), Sophia Antonopoulos (Maryvale) and Eloise Clevenger (Marriotts Ridge), rising senior attackers Hannah Leubecker (homeschooled) and Libby May (Hereford), rising senior goalie Emily Sterling (John Carroll), rising senior defender Aiden Peduzzi (Oakdale) and rising junior defender Kennedy Williamson (Roland Park) comprised that group.

The 5-foot-10 Sweeney said that her team was ready for Bmore’s challenge on Sunday.

“Baltimore is known for being a strong team,” she said. “They were trying to work their shots low, and I was ready for them.”

Baltimore coach Abby Swift said that losing too many draw controls and ground balls made the difference in the game.

“We just came up a little bit short today,” the John Carroll coach said.

The Baltimore Command team, which had averaged more than 15 goals per game while going 4-0 during pool play, was stymied by Washington, D.C.’s strong backline in a 7-6 overtime setback.

Baltimore, which easily handled Washington, 10-4, in pool play, was playing man-down defense when rising sophomore Kerry Nease (Freeman High, Henrico, Va.) ended the game with a goal.

The Charm City girls built a 3-1 lead on goals by rising sophomore midfielder Anna Andrews (Bryn Mawr), rising sophomore midfielder Haley Polk (Gerstell Academy) and rising freshman attacker Jaclyn Marszal (Glenelg Country School) before 4-0 run carried D.C. to a 5-3 advantage early in the second half.

Baltimore then scored three times in succession on goals by rising sophomore attacker Christina Gagnon (St. Paul’s School for Girls) and rising sophomore midfielders Ava Washington (Franklin) and Kailey Pelkey (NDP) to regain the lead with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

However, Baltimore never scored again and had to play the final minutes of regulation and all of overtime shorthanded because of being assessed four yellow cards.

“In the first half, we just had too many empty possessions,” Baltimore coach Brian Reese said. “And they (D.C.) made us work really hard on defense, and we just didn’t make enough plays. Our goalies played really well, but their goalies played just a little bit better.”