Atholton's Ella Farris talks about the Raiders' 13-5 victory over Reservoir to open the 3A East playoffs on May 8, 2019.
Despite winning its match-up against Reservoir by seven goals to close out the regular season, Atholton knew better than to overlook the Gators heading into the two teams opening-round game in the 3A East region playoffs Wednesday evening.
After all, it was just last year that the Raiders won the regular season meeting only to see the Gators come back and flip the script in the postseason.
So this time around, Atholton (8-7) came out ready to go and answered every challenge on the way to securing the season sweep of visiting Reservoir (2-11) with a 13-5 victory. Ella Farris scored a game-high six goals, while Molly Flynn added a hat trick, for a Raiders’ team that advances to face top-seeded Long Reach in the region quarterfinals on Friday.
“Especially after last year, we knew they are a team not to be underestimated,” Farris said. “We just came out and played our game like last week, knowing what it was like to take them on.”
Reservoir certainly showed plenty of fight throughout, including scoring first on a goal by Kat Thayer in the opening two minutes to grab the lead. But as the game wore on, Atholton established its footing with several extended runs.
The Raiders scored four unanswered goals after that initial deficit to take a 4-1 lead and eventually built an 8-3 advantage going into halftime. Later, as the Gators made a push to open the second half, Atholton again responded with five consecutive goals to officially put the game away.
“We came out with much more of a fire this game. It was much tighter at the beginning I thought than last time against them,” Reservoir coach Stephanie Bebko said. “But once they started controlling possession and got some separation in terms of the score, we had to change our game plan. We felt confident in our zone defensively, but it wasn’t really an option once we fell behind.”
Reservoir got itself as close as three goals, 8-5, in the first five minutes of the second half following a goal by Sarah Nam (3 goals, 1 assist) off a feed from Thayer. But Atholton quickly regrouped after that with three consecutive goals from Farris, Makayla Gravely-Smith (2 goals) and Flynn over a span of three minutes to retake control.
“I think our girls have tremendous poise when it comes down to it, and it doesn’t matter who we put in off the bench,” Atholton coach Laura Foerster Puglisi said. “We practice a lot of high-pressure drills and high-pressure situations that I think prepare us for those moments where we do need to keep our composure a little bit more. In that second half, we focused a lot on possession and that helped us regain the momentum.”
Atholton goalie Kyleigh Eaton finished with seven saves to help keep her team ahead, while Reservoir goalie Caileigh Sullivan made eight stops.
Looking ahead to the match-up against the Lightning (8-3), a team Atholton didn’t play against during the regular season, Farris said she and her teammates are determined to keep the positive momentum going.
“We’re really excited to take on Long Reach, especially as a Friday night game,” she said. “We’re already further than last year, so even more reason to keep going and keep our heads up.”