It wouldn’t be a surprise if some of the Catonsville girls celebrated with a pizza for dinner after their 11-8 Class 4A-3A state semifinal win over Sherwood at Northeast High on Saturday afternoon.
After all, they heard the word enough from Comets coach Becky Clipp Cassilly, who employed a "pizza-and-one" defense designed to stop leading scorer Emily Kenul (67 goals, 37 assists). The Comets' defense did more than that by holding the Warriors (13-2) scoreless for the first 17:09 of the second half while their offense scored five straight goals to break a 5-5 halftime tie.
Catonsville (10-7) will play Severna Park in the state championship game at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on May 20 or 21.
“We went straight into basketball mode because she (Kenul) is so good, she is very, very good, and she was working us on that crease,” said Cassilly, noting the defense is like a box-and-one.
Kayla Wood did most of the defending on Kenul and she got some help from Trinity McPherson.
The rest of the defense, which included senior Chloe Corbitt, Lila Nazarian, Madi Lazorchak and Maddie Schwaab, responded with strong efforts along with goalie Savannah Cheuvront.
When the defense tried to switch later in the second half, the Warriors took advantage of it.
“We talked to her (Cassilly) and they scored two goals, and we went back to the pizza and it worked,” Corbitt said. “She knows what she’s talking about so we just listen to her.”
The Comets offense also needed to step up when top scorer Brooke Stevens (44 goals, 32 assists) was injured and didn’t return after suffering a knee injury with 4:03 left in the first half and the Comets trailing 5-4.
Lauren McDonald (3 goals, 2 assists) responded with an outstanding feed from behind the goal to Anderson Gill that tied it at 5-5 with 1:26 remaining in the half.
It was the first of six straight goals for the Comets, who extended the lead to 10-5 with 8:52 left in the second half on a fastbreak goal by Gill off Kelsey Scott’s assist.
“She (Stevens) is the heart of our offense,” said McDonald, who took over the team scoring lead during the game with 47 goals and 31 assists. “She runs everything, she starts everything and we all look up to her, including myself, so losing her just kind of turned into looking to each other because that was all we had. ... We wanted to win more than anything after she went down.”
During the five-goal run, the Comets survived two man-down situations after yellow cards.
Center Jenn Nonn started the scoring surge with 18:02 left when she cut through a pair of defenders and notched the go-ahead goal.
Nearly three minutes later, Nonn scored again for a 7-5 lead.
“I had the opportunity and I just took it because I know we needed the goals,” said Nonn, who entered the game with 23 goals and 10 assists.
After Nonn’s second goal of the second half, the Warriors had a golden opportunity to cut the lead in half, but Corbitt had the second of three blocked shots on a free position shot by Ella Booz.
“I guess I was just there at the right spot and I got my stick in front of it,” said Corbitt, who watched her goalie come to the rescue after Booz got her own rebound and Cheuvront responded with her toughest save of the day of the day with 14:21 remaining.
That led to a shot at the other end by McDonald that deflected off the goalie right to Brittany Stevens and she deposited it in the back of the net for an 8-5 lead.
The Comets maintained possession and extended the lead to 9-5 with 11:22 left when Nonn assisted Scott.
After Gill pushed the lead to 10-5, Sherwood finally broke through on a goal by Kenul with 7:51 remaining, but Nonn and Wood teamed up to win the next critical draw and McDonald’s unassisted tally pushed the lead back to five.
“We got the draw and the draw was huge,” Cassilly said.
“We knew Jenn Nonn was going to be a challenge, but we have some talent coming in off of the circle,” Sherwood coach Kelly Hughes said. “It always comes down to the draw and when you are in crisis and you feel like you are falling behind and you don’t win the draw, it’s easy to hang your head.”
Sherwood closed its scoring on a pair of goals by Natalie Sebeck, but the Comets stalled the final three minutes after Nonn caused a turnover and scooped the ground ball.
McDonald had the ball for most of the final winning seconds.
“When Becky asks you to have the ball in your stick it’s always an honor,” McDonald said. “You want to do it for your team. I was looking for an open girl, but sometimes it’s hard in the moment. There is just so much adrenaline, and I just wanted to get that game over with because I could taste it.”
It was the Comets' third straight trip to the state semifinals and first time they advanced to the state final since 2008.
They lost the final to Severna Park that year. The last time Catonsville won a state lacrosse title was 1996.
“I though it was a perfect win,” Nonn said. “We fought and we actually earned it.”
Goals: Lauren McDonald 3, Jenn Nonn 2, Brittany Stevens 2, Anderson Gill 2, Brooke Stevens 1, Kelsey Scott 1
Assists: McDonald 2, Nonn 2, Scott 1
Goals: Emily Kenul 2, Delaney McMenamin 2, Natalie Sebeck 2, Connor Ganey 1, Kristen Lauda 1
Assists: Sebeck 2, Kenul 1