MANCHESTER — Thursday's game was a memorable one for the Westminster girls lacrosse team.
The Owls defeated Manchester Valley 16-10 in the county opener for both teams, making it the team's first victory over the Mavericks since 2012.
The contest brought two teams to the field that graduated a large number of players from last season, one that featured them split the county championship with Century in a three-way tie for the title. Both units worked to guide each other through their respective game plans and build chemistry along the way.
"I think we definitely improved from our first game," Owls junior goalie Sara Tyssowski said. "Our defense has gotten a lot better and we've been communicating a lot better and our shots are just beautiful this season."
Owls junior midfielder Anna Ruby added that the girls "made things click" against the Mavericks. Ruby paced the team with five goals and an assist for the Owls (4-1, 1-0 county).
Westminster used a 4-0 run through the first nine minutes of play to gain a 4-1 lead over Man Valley — each goal was scored by a different player. The Mavericks trimmed the deficit 4-2 when sophomore midfielder Josey Shaffer picked up a loose ball, came around from behind the net and fed it to sophomore attacker Chloe Coppa for the goal.
Tayler Warehime netted her second tally with 11:42 remaining to bring the Mavs within three. The senior attacker led the team with six goals. Ruby fired a shot past Mavs goalie Becca Wade from the free position with 4:47 left, but the Mavs scored the next three to close out the half, 8-5.
The Owls outscored the Mavs 4-1 early in the second half. Warehime faced pressure on attack as she sent a low ball straight through the center and past Tyssowski to make the score 12-7.
The draw was controlled by the visitors through most of the game — the Owls won 16 as compared to the Mavericks' 10. Warehime and Ruby traded goals in the final minute of the game.
"Hats off to Man Val, they've got a great circle play as well," Ruby said. "For us, it was just winning every single 50/50 ball, so it was just a matter of not slowing down."
Owls coach Jackie Stevens said having Ruby and junior defender Haleigh Moore taking the draw for the team changed the momentum, adding that it helped the possession sway in their favor.
Man Valley goalies Becca Wade and Brynn Knight combined for eight saves. Wade stopped six and Knight kept out two for the Mavs (2-1, 0-1).
"I thought our hustle was there, we hustled all the way through the last whistle and we fought for everything," Mavs coach Shelly Brezicki said. "I thought when we got the ball on attack, we made some nice plays and I think defensively we were able to adjust. We threw a lot of different defenses out there and I thought our girls adjusted to those things really well."
Goals: W-Erin Anderson 2, Hannah Dintino 2, Faith Chmielewski, Lauren Saltz 2, Anna Ruby 5, Madi Macera 4; MV-Jeri Garland, Chloe Coppa, Tayler Warehime 6, Maddie Zeller, Lauren Cremen.
Assists: W-Hannah Dintino 2, Anna Ruby, Madi Macera; MV-Josey Shaffer.
Saves: W-6 (Sara Tyssowski); MV-8 (Becca Wade 6, Brynn Knight 2).
Halftime: Westminster, 8-5.
JV result: Westminster, 6-5.