When the final second ticked off the clock at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference girls’ lacrosse tournament final, frenzied cries of jubilation filled the air as purple-and-white clad players ran wildly into each others’ arms. If the 9-4 score seemed predictable, the victor certainly was not.
Holy Cross (15-5) put forth an inspired performance Wednesday night at the University of Maryland’s Ludwig Field to end eighth-ranked Good Counsel’s 90-game conference winning streak that included eight straight tournament titles.
The Tartans hadn’t beaten Good Counsel since 2004; in last year’s WCAC final, they fell to the Falcons, 22-3.
“It’s just awesome,” said Holy Cross senior Monica Lucas, who scored three goals. “We’ve been trying to do this since we were freshmen, and all the years before us that couldn’t do it, it just feels awesome that we were able to do it. Our last chance to win it, we finally capitalized on it.”
Senior Shannon Gallagher (game-high four goals) set the tone early for the Tartans. She scored off a free-position shot less than two minutes into the first half and then followed with an unassisted goal with 18 minutes 39 seconds left in the half. With just under 10 seconds to play in the half, Gallagher swung the momentum fully in her team’s favor with a breakaway goal that came thanks to a turnover forced in Good Counsel’s end of the field by junior Shannon Spellacy.
Holy Cross Coach Jenna Ries implored her players to forget about their 4-2 halftime lead, particularly against a team as talented as the Falcons (13-7).
“We just treated it as 0-0,” Gallagher said. “We didn’t want to think that we had the lead because we didn’t want to get nervous or over-think it, so we just played as hard as we could in the first half and capitalized on their mistakes in the second half.”
Good Counsel senior Tori Cerny recorded a quick goal to begin the second half, but the Tartans responded with three straight goals. From there, the Holy Cross defense, which limited WCAC player of the year Caroline Peters to one assist, held its ground and allowed the offense to increase its hold on the possession battle as the game wore down.
“Our defense got better and better as the season went on,” Ries said. “They’re not the best athletes in the world, but they mentally understand it, so they gave up minimal fouls, fouled when they had to and our goalie [freshman Jackie Branthover, 11 saves] made big saves.”
While an ecstatic Ries relished her first title, she savored the defeat of an old rival even more.
“When it comes to building a program, this is more important,” Ries said. “It’s more important to beat your nemesis than it is to win the championship.”