In the last few practices leading up to Tuesday’s Montgomery 4A East girls’ lacrosse game at Blake, Sherwood Coach Kelly Hughes prepared her players to attack the net without top scorersEmily Kenul and Maddie Doan.
The second-year coach knew Kenul and Doan would be on the field Tuesday, but Hughes wanted to make sure when the Bengals took extra measures to shut off the explosive midfielders, her offense could continue without missing a beat.
Kenul dominated early against Blake with all of her game-high five goals before intermission, and when the Bengals stepped up the defensive pressure on the Johns Hopkins recruit, her supporting cast provided the finishing blows in a hard-fought 11-9 victory in Silver Spring.
Junior Kristen Lauda scored three goals, including the game-winner with 4 minutes 45 seconds remaining, and senior Taylor Polhemus chipped in two second-half scores, helping the Warriors keep their perfect record intact.
“All our girls got so much better for this year,” said Kenul, a junior. “We can run an offense now. Everybody can catch and throw the ball. It allows us to do a lot more than we could in years past.”
With the division title at stake, Blake (7-2, 5-1) launched a serious upset bid behind a strong effort from senior midfielder Caroline Wannen. Despite being face-guarded, the Maryland recruit finished with four goals and two assists and also helped out to stop Kenul on the defensive end.
Kenul’s first-half outburst staked Sherwood (9-0, 6-0) to a two-goal halftime lead, but the Bengals ran off three straight to start the second half and held the advantage until Polhemus scored a man-up goal with 10:52 left.
After the teams traded goals, Lauda broke the deadlock for good, cutting free down the middle off a feed from Doan, who will play at Virginia Tech. Sherwood had to fight off a late two-minute penalty after a yellow card, but Polhemus added an insurance goal and the Warriors survived a performance that tested Hughes’s patience.
“That looked like a young team out there instead of one that’s as experienced as they are,” Hughes said. “We play for possession and patience, and I think the rivalry got the best of them a little bit. It was hard.”
Sherwood entered the spring with lofty expectations after narrowly missing its first state tournament appearance last season. The Sandy Spring school fell to Churchill in the Maryland 4A/3A West final for the third straight year, losing 20-19, after leading much of the way.
With three games left in the regular season, the Warriors, who returned half of their starting lineup, have done nothing to damage that confidence, especially after a night when they showed the offense doesn’t have to come from Kenul and Doan.
“Hopefully, this will be the year,” Kenul said. “We’re really looking forward to it. That’s the big goal that we’re all working for.”