HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Centennial and River Hill girls lacrosse played a back and fourth first half on Thursday afternoon, filled with hat tricks from Eagles midfielders Claudia Pilcher and Marissa Lagera and four different Hawks goal scorers. The Eagles played from ahead for much of the period, taking a 7-5 lead into the break. But based the opening 25 minutes, it seemed the Hawks would find a way to answer.
That response came 16 seconds into the second period on a goal from Gracie Seybold, bringing River Hill back within one, but that turned out to be the second-to-last scoring tally of the game for the Hawks. Centennial scored one of its own 28 seconds after Seybold’s, then rattled off seven unanswered goals.
The lengthy scoring run allowed the Eagles to take firm control in their eventual 16-7 victory.
“We became a little shook when the score was so close, and we knew that we needed to pull ahead in terms of putting goals in the net,” coach Bethany Cunha said. “Second half, we did that, and we took care of the ball. First half, we were just kind of making mistakes out of panic, and I think one of the things we’re going to work on is keeping our composure and coming out strong from the gate.”
Cunha said her team’s panic stemmed from a fear of failure. The players did not want to “mess up” any of the strategies or new plays she had implemented early on this season, and that hesitancy resulted in turnovers and extra River Hill possessions. The Hawks (0-2 county, 0-2 overall) capitalized by way of scoring five first-half goals.
But even when Centennial (1-0, 1-1) struggled as a unit, Lagera and Pilcher made individual plays to keep their team ahead. Lagera, who scored five goals in a season-opening loss to Mt. de Sales on Monday, tallied the first four Eagles’ goals in Thursday’s contest. Pilcher, after scoring four times in that first game, notched the next three scores against the Hawks, two of those coming off free shots.
Lagera and Pilcher finished with six and five goals, respectively, giving the duo 20 of Centennial’s 25 goals through two games.
“They were monsters,” River Hill coach Amy Weinberg said. “They were quickly coming off those elbows, feeding, driving.”
Against attacking players like Lagera and Pilcher, Weinberg said her team needs to do a better job with their defensive slides. That could mean double-teaming the dangerous scoring threats or making sure not to overcommit to a certain player. The Hawks also allowed Centennial to successfully draw and dump too often, which led to point-blank shots on goal.
However, above all, Weinberg said the Hawks need to work on staying positive when faced with a deficit.
“We were kind of beating ourselves up at times in the sense of we were making mistakes and then not hustling back to get back on defense or work through those mistakes,” she said.
As River Hill endured a nearly 18-minute scoring drought, Centennial quickly got out to a 10-6 lead it methodically built on from there. Lagera and Pilcher each scored twice, but other players found the back of the net, too. There was freshman Nicole Ouellette, whose first three-career goals came in the second half. Senior Ashley Florenzo and junior Olivia Weakland also added to the scoring total.
By the final buzzer, Centennial had scored nine of the final 11 goals, which was more than enough for the Eagles to secure their first win of the season.
“We were really able to feed off of our energy,” Lagera said. “We’re a really close team, so just hyping each other up, stick clicks after scoring, really being proud of each other after each run. I think coming together as a team, we were able to pull it off.”
Centennial (1-0 county, 1-1) — 16, River Hill (0-2, 0-2) — 7
Goals: C — Marissa Lagera 6, Claudia Pilcher 5, Nicole Ouellette 3, Ashley Florenzo, Olivia Weakland; RH — Lexi Thielemann 2, Gracie Seybold 2, Jules Grasso 2, Gaby Hamburger.
Assists: C — Pilcher 3; RH — Thielemann, Seybold, Shelby Brunett, Kate Essman.
Saves: C — Sarah Thorman, RH — Rosh Patel 7.
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Halftime: 7-5, C