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North girls win Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic after big first half

The girls lacrosse All-Americans of the North did what their male counterparts could not on Saturday: hold on to an early lead.

After watching the North boys team fall to the South in overtime after jumping out to a 9-2 lead in the early game of the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium, the North girls team pounced on the South early and kept firing to secure an 18-11 win.

The North girls hold a 7-2 series lead over the South since the annual game began in 2006.

"I just came here to play my best, represent the North and I guess it just worked out," said attacker Shayna Pirreca, who paced the North with three goals and two assists and was named the game's Most Valuable Player.

Pirreca got things started for the North 42 seconds into the game with an unassisted goal. Her teammate, midfielder Marie McCool, added a goal of her own less than a minute later to give the North a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

The North kept winning the draw control, leading to instant offense. The South trailed the North 5-0 14 minutes into the game.

The South's first goal didn't come until the 15:26 mark of the first half on a free position shot from attacker/midfielder Kelly Myers.

"We knew we didn't want to let our lead go, so we tried to stay composed, keep possession of the ball and be smart when we had the ball," Pirreca said.

Though the South broke the early run, the North responded with six unanswered goals to take a 11-2 lead with more than six minutes left in the first half. The South, however, never seemed to give up, scoring three of the final four goals of the first half to cut the lead to 12-5 heading into halftime.

Still, the first half statistics were lopsided. The North took 20 shots compared to just seven from the South. Eight different players found the net for the North, led by three goals apiece from Pirreca and attacker/midfielder Kenzie Kent, who ended the game with a game-high four goals.

Attackers Megan Whittle (McDonogh) and Amanda Ignacio of Cooksville agreed possession and draw control was key for the South to bounce back in the second half. In the opening 25 minutes of the game, the North controlled 12 of 18 draws.

"We pretty much just said at halftime that we need to win the 50-50 balls and draws, just take our time and not rush it and play more like a team than just by ourselves," said Ignacio, who will play at Georgetown next season.

Out of halftime, midfielder Taylor Hensh (Marriotts Ridge) — a native of Woodstock who will play at Maryland next year — scored an early goal to trim the North's lead to six and start what ultimately was an evenly-matched second half.

With just two minutes left in the game, the South had a glimmer of hope after midfielder CeCe Finney (Roland Park) scored to bring her team within five goals, the narrowest margin of the game.

But just like it did all night, the North answered — 10 seconds later, to be exact — with a goal from attacker Isabella O'Connor, who also found the net with 22 seconds left in the game to seal a seven-goal win.

Though each team scored six goals in the second half, the North never relinquished its early, commanding lead.

"We weren't really settling in on attack in the first half, but we sort of got into the groove in the second half," Whittle said. "Shots started falling and everything, but we dug a pretty deep hole."

Of the South's 11 goals, seven were scored by players from the state of Maryland, led by a three-goal, two-assist performance from Ignacio and Whittle's two goals.

Though her team lost, Whittle — who did not lose a game in her four-year career at McDonogh — could joke at the end of the night when asked what she'd take away from the game as she prepared to play for defending national champion Maryland next year.

"I never want to lose again," she said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ryan Bacic contributed to this article

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