In the last rays of Friday evening sun, the Manchester Valley girls lacrosse team raised their sticks into the orange sky to celebrate a senior night win against their Westminster rivals. The Mavericks rode through a game of many ups and downs to come out on top, 14-10.
“This is probably the toughest game that we’ve played all season,” senior Jessie Bare said. “And I think just getting the win for senior night — cause our other senior night was supposed to be Tuesday and it got rained out, and cause Westminster is usually our rival, it just made it even better.”
The Mavericks came out strong getting a goal from junior Casey Meredith 15 seconds into the game off an assist from junior Sarah Brisson.
With success on draws and getting to ground balls, Manchester Valley was unstoppable early in the first half. Exceptional work from both goalie and defenders alike kept the Mavericks winning draws and forcing hesitation from the usually strong Owls offense.
“I think defensively we played extremely well, it was probably our best defensive game,” Mavericks coach Shelly Brezicki said. “I thought that Jessie Bare, our senior defender, and Aubrey Chopper, our junior defender, played extremely well. Our goalie came up with some key saves — Lauren Baldwin.”
Brezicki’s praise extended past the defense.
“I thought Casey Meredith and Erin Herrold really controlled the tempo of the game for us,” she said. “Overall it was a team effort, and it was nice to see.”
Herrold stretched the Mavericks’ lead to 5-0, propelling them forward onto what seemed like a smooth road ahead.
But the Owls were not going to give up so easily. Jess Kent got her team on the board and the burst of momentum propelled them forward. Slowly, but surely, the Owls were climbing up back into the game.
The slow steady climb continued, with three minutes left in the half Manchester was up two, 7-5. Herrold made another statement goal and the Owls retaliated with their own as the teams went to halftime at 8-6.
The second half fired off with that same competitive spirit, but the Owls seized control with their defense shutting down the Mavericks. Grace Larrimore came off the bench to get Manchester Valley going with a goal, but a couple injuries forced the Mavericks to regroup.
The energy they had at the beginning of the game was dwindling. The Owls soared into the lead, 10-9, with 14 minutes left.
After a brief time out, the Mavericks seemed to snap back into focus. This was their senior night. They were not about to let the game slip away.
“We’re able to play for our seniors, play for every person on this team,” Brezicki said. “This team believes in each other and they come together in moments — I mean, it was an up and down game — and I think when we did, the momentum, they pushed through. So that’s awesome.”
Meredith tied the score at 10. Herrold quickly followed with another goal. Meredith was the top scorer of the night with five goals, followed by Herrold and freshman Haylee Bittinger with three.
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Westminster struggled against the defensive teamwork which pushed them away from the goal and contributed to missed shots. Several scraps and scrambles for the ball could have splintered into chaos, but the Mavericks remained steady. They had seized the game by the reins and planned to ride into the sunset.
Meredith scored the final goals of the game in the last two minutes, an exclamation point to the win over their rivals. As time ran out, the Mavericks began to celebrate, leaping into the air and cheering alongside one another.
“Overall, I think we played awesome,” Bare said with a smile “Like, we usually have a hard time getting it going in the beginning, but considering that we started off strong and we finished strong, I think we played pretty well.”
Her coach joined in on the dance circle celebration once both teams had congratulated each other on a well-played match.
“Great win against a really tough team,” she said. “I think it’s just a good place to be heading into the playoffs, you know, and finishing out our season.”