Arundel’s girls lacrosse team hasn’t lost to Old Mill in years. Not one person wearing Wildcats white and green knows the feeling.
They sure weren’t about to start Friday — not when they could win their first regional title.
Morgan Gore, three goals to her to name already in the Class 4A East Region I final Friday night in Gambrills, crouched low and faced down the Patriots goal and struck the game-winner.
Though No. 2 seed Old Mill dictated momentum often in the first half, the top-seeded Wildcats surged from behind to claim the lead in the second half and beat the Patriots, 8-7, to punch a ticket to the 4A state quarterfinals on Monday.
Arundel earned the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 seed Northwestern in Monday’s quarterfinal round.
“It’s good when games aren’t cakewalks. Prepares you for the next level,” Arundel coach Kim McNemar said.
Before Friday’s final, the Wildcats gathered in the gym and looked around at the banners. Noticeably empty was a spot for a girls lacrosse team to fill and make some history.
“We were like, just do this for our school,” said Gore, who led the way with four goals. “Let’s put our name out there. We are a force to be reckoned with, with Broadneck, Severna Park and South River.”
Old Mill played shy on the first draw, not even following it as Arundel grabbed it and quickly took a 1-0 lead.
The Patriots didn’t make that mistake again. It won the next draw and knotted the score minutes later.
Of course, Arundel had to double-team Old Mill senior Allyna Threatt — not only is she the county’s leading scorer, but a good number of the Wildcats know her, and her abilities, from club lacrosse.
But even when two defenders hung on her, she still hit her mark and put Old Mill in front, 2-1.
McNemar said that Old Mill coach Chelsea Hauswirth has developed the team well in the past several years.
“We didn’t take them lightly,” McNemar said. “… They’re aggressive. They have a lot of heart. They wanted it. But my leaders took control.”
As soon as figures like Threatt grabbed a goal, Arundel players like Nikki Seven and Gore threw punches of their own.
When the Wildcats fired on goal, they really didn’t miss. But under the pressure of the smothering Arundel defense, Old Mill went for a different approach: if the cover was too heavy, the Patriots ball-handler threw it over the net to reset and slow the pace.
The strategy worked, and the shots were accurate.
Old Mill junior Elaina Creekmore drilled the go-ahead goal to make it 4-3, and sophomore Heather Titus handed the Patriots a two-goal advantage before Arundel called a timeout.
What followed was a long, churning period of many whistles, Old Mill shots on goal and Kylie Sharpe saves. If not for the Arundel goalkeeper, who made six saves, the Wildcats might’ve been looking at a much larger deficit.
But, Arundel had a plan. First, Izzi Seven narrowed the gap to one just before the half, a bullet served up by Malia Walker, to make it 5-4.
The captains pulled everyone together at halftime and said, “Now’s our time.”
“We talked about: Play Arundel lacrosse,” McNemar said. “We’re here for a reason and we just need to keep building on our successes. You make a mistake, you got to pull yourself together.”
Then, even though Creekmore needed just 16 seconds to score again, Arundel installed a monopoly on everything after that: the draw circle, possessions, and, most importantly, the scoring.
The Wildcats’ Caroline Keane attacked the cage and scored twice, tying the game at 6, and that’s really when Arundel’s story began. Slides and passes improved. It all clicked, Gore said.
“We worked too hard for this to let it go,” she said.
After another long stretch, one that even eclipsed that of the first half, Gore swept upon the Old Mill goal like a shadow and scored, giving Arundel a lead for the first time since the opening minute.
It’s not like Old Mill didn’t try to strike back. It earned a fair amount of free positions. But its attacks and midfielders got tangled up in a renewed Arundel defense and were unable to do anything. Gore said communication helped until Threatt got one last moment.
After Threatt tied the score at 7, her team screaming around her as the senior skipped with joy.
But that joy was short-lived, as Gore took her free position and scored the game-winning goal.
“She doesn’t like to lose, doesn’t like to disappoint herself and doesn’t like to disappoint me,” McNemar said of Gore. “She’s smart with the ball and smart under pressure. She came up when we needed her to.”
GOALS: Ar — Morgan Gore 4, Caroline Keane 2, Nikki Seven 1, Izzi Seven 1; OM — Allyna Threatt 3, Elaina Creekmore 2, Olivia Olin 1, Heather Titus 1.