Winning draws is a crucial element of girls lacrosse. Tuesday night it won Liberty another state title.
Liberty junior Jenna Evans won 8 of 12 draws, leading the Lions to a 9-4 win over Fallston in the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association Class 1A state championship game at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex. Liberty’s possession game held the Cougars scoreless in the second half.
Emily Spampinato scored three goals to pace Liberty.
The title is Liberty’s second straight over Fallston, which got three goals from Ava Lambros. The Lions beat the Cougars, 10-9, in last year’s 1A final.
“We were killing it on the draws,” Liberty coach Tom Brandel said. “That kind of surprised me. Our defense wasn’t a surprise, because I know we can play like that. Our goalie play was also excellent. Emily [Pond] did a great job back there.”
The most important series of the game came just after halftime. With Liberty clinging to a 5-4 lead, the Lions were down two players for yellow cards. Evans, as she did most of the night, won the opening draw that allowed Liberty to keep possession and run out the penalty time.
“She knew where to put it every time,” Cougars midfielder Ayla Galloway said. “She would put it in the same spot each time, and there was always someone there to pick up the ground ball.”
The advantage in the draw circle was more pronounced in the first half, where Evans won 7 of 9 draws.
Fallston did manage a run of possession early in the game and even took a 2-1 lead on a Mia Salvatierra goal with 14:31 left in the first half.
Liberty equalized a little less than a minute later. After another draw control, Evans got a pass from Riley Matthiesen from behind the goal and tied the game at 2 with 13:42 left in the first half.
Liberty retook the lead for good with 12:44 left in the half when Val Thompson, one of only two seniors on the Liberty roster, took another pass from Matthiesen and beat Cougars’ goalie Summer Eddinger on a bounce shot.
The Lions would use goals from Matthiesen and Taylor Jendrek to increase the lead to 5-2 with 9:09 left in the half, but Fallston would get two straight goals from Lambros to cut the deficit to 5-4 at halftime.
The second half was all Liberty. The Lions played a possession game and held the ball for long periods of time. Evans widened the lead to 6-4 on a free position goal with 19:57 left, and Spampinato added another free position goal with 7:35 left to make it 7-4.
Spampinato added the final two goals to cap Liberty’s title and set off a wild celebration.
“It was great just watching them play their hearts out,” Matthiesen said of the Liberty defense, which was led by twins Julia and Izzy Lucas, Mariah Williams and Sydnie Bolgar. “I think they played their best game of the season.”
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“We prepared really well for this game. I know I spent most of the day watching our game against them last year,” Thompson, who will play at Towson next year, said. “Fallston has a really good team, but we really wanted to repeat as champions.”
Fallston coach Maddie Palko said she was proud of her team and their effort.
“I don’t have kids, so I tell their parents how proud I am to ‘rent’ them for a season. It’s like I have 27 kids,” Palko said. “We gave it all the fight we have and showed a great mental toughness. Props to [Liberty] on a great game.”
Goals: L — Spampinato 3, Thompson 2, Evans 2, Matthiesen, Jendrek; F — Lambros 3, Salvatierra.
Assists: L — Matthiesen; F — Salvatierra 2, Nicolaus.
Saves: L — E. Pond 6, F — Eddinger 8.
Half: 5-4, L