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Injuries haven't slowed first-place Pallotti in girls lacrosse

Pallotti girls lacrosse coach Paul Billingsley might wonder just how much better his team could be without the injuries.

The Panthers lost two starters for the year -- junior defender Allysa Winegard (knee) and sophomore midfielder Sydney Rynn-Mason (foot) in March.

Injuries mounted when senior midfielder Brittany Brown suffered a knee injury in mid-April. She could be back for the playoffs, which start on May 6.

The injured players were considered the heart and soul of the defense.

"I call it the band-aid approach," Billingsley said. "We have put a band-aid on it. When an experienced player got hurt, we put a new player in there. We have a lot of new kids that are playing defense."

Surprisingly, the Panthers haven't missed a beat.

Pallotti is 9-4 overall and in first place in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland's C Conference's Gold Division.

The Panthers' young players — freshman Sam Dumbaugh, junior Karla Guitierrez and sophomore Abby Onyekweil — have stepped up to fill the void on defense.

"They are playing better and better every week and playing more aggressively," Billingsley said.

The Panthers have also been getting standout play from senior attacker Carissa Hill and junior goalie Alexis Thorne.

Hill leads the team with 53 goals and totaled a season-high nine in a 18-11 victory over Oldfields on March 28.

She could be Pallotti's most valuable player. Billingsley found that out after a 15-8 win over Mount Carmel on April 8.

Hill, who had 76 goals last year, missed the game because of a school play.

She plans to play volleyball at St. Mary's College, but Billingsley has encouraged her to play lacrosse there, too.

"Mount Carmel is in last place in our conference, but it was a horrible back and fourth game," Billingsley said. "Our offense was really bad. We missed Carissa and her ball control."

Billingsley also appreciates the presence of Thorne, a transfer from South River who has committed to play lacrosse at Saint Mary's College.

Her best efforts include 17 saves in a 17-15 win over Catholic and 13 stops in a 12-8 victory over Chapelgate Christian, the defending league champion.

Billingsley knows Thorne from a club team he coaches in the summer, the Severna Park-based Maryland United.

"She wasn't happy with her playing time at South River," the coach said. "So I told her to come to Pallotti and she got in. Having an experience goalie in this league makes all the difference. She is playing great."

Hill agrees.

"She has really inspired us to come together," she said. "She really has strengthened our defense."

After losing in a playoff quarterfinal last year to St. Timothy's, the Panthers are poised a much better postseason this time around.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't make a statement in the playoffs," Billingsley said. "Our goal is to get to the championship game. We can play with anybody in the league. Our two league losses have been by a goal and three goals."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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