Severna Park's girls lacrosse team had to be emotionally spent five days after the death of teammate Tracy Vander Kolk, but they came together Monday night to honor her memory with an 8-5 win over their top Anne Arundel County rival, South River, in a Class 4A-3A regional semifinal.
Just hours after both teams attended Vander Kolk's viewing, the No. 8 Falcons regrouped to get off to a quick start and led the entire game, avenging their 11-9 regular-season loss to the No. 7 Seahawks.
Goalie Camille King played a big role in the victory with nine saves to send the defending state champion Falcons (15-2) to the regional title game Wednesday at Leonardtown, an 8-7 winner over No. 9 Broadneck in the other semifinal.
King, whose backup is Tracy's twin sister Rachel, said she drew inspiration from Rachel's presence and she felt Tracy's spirit with the team the whole game.
"Although we are emotionally drained, there's something that comes deep down inside that you have to use," King said. "Seeing Rachel go through it all with her poise and toughness, it just brings you up. You don't understand how she can go through such difficulty and still act so happy and so excited to be here with us. It's amazing. You just feed off that."
The Falcons took a 3-1 lead on Morgan Torrgler's second goal with 7:57 left in the first half. The host Seahawks, who were the top seed in the region, cut the lead to one twice but could not even the score.
The Seahawks had momentum going into the break after Bella Pyne scored as time expired to pull within 5-3, but the Falcons erased that less than two minutes after the break when Ally Adams boosted the lead back to three.
The goalies took over for nearly 12 minutes as South River's Elizabeth Duswalt made six of her 11 saves and King made five, including two point-blank saves against the Seahawks in transition.
South River (13-4) finally broke through with 10:20 left in the half when Amber Kovalick brought the Seahawks within 6-4 and then made it 6-5 four minutes later.
The Falcons won their third draw of the half and Torrgler netted her third goal to boost the lead back to two, 7-5, with 5:28 to go. Ryan Bathras fed Kelsey Kirk with 2:17 left to provide a little insurance.
South River coach Kim McNemar, whose starters presented flowers to Falcons coach Carin Peterson as they were introduced, said it was tough to counter the kind of emotion the Falcons brought to the game and that her team struggled to finish in a way they hadn't in the previous meeting.
"A team can either fall or a team can play on those emotions and I figured they would play on those emotions," McNemar said. "It's unfortunate for us. Our defense played phenomenal, we just couldn't finish and that's so unusual for our team, but I tried to tell the kids, 'In the end, it's just a lacrosse game.'"
Tuesday morning at 10, the Falcons will attend the funeral for their 16-year-old teammate at Our Lady of the Fields church in Millersville. Severna Park athletic director Wayne Mook declined to provide details of the sophomore's passing, but said she died Thursday night.
Wednesday, Severna Park will be back on the field trying to win a regional title that will send them after their 11th state championship and their fifth in six years.
King, a senior, has no doubt Tracy will be right there with them again.
"When we were having a little bit of struggles, we looked to Rachel, we looked to Tracy, we looked to the Vander Kolk family and that got us through it," King said. "I was very close with Rachel and Tracy this year. Tracy was here the whole time. This game was played for her."
Goals: SP—Torggler 3, Wells 3, Adams, Kirk; SR—Kovalick 2, Pyne, Carter, Spalding; Assists: SP—Ricci, Bathras. Saves: SP—King 9; SR—Duswalt 12. Half: SP, 5-3.