Stangs girls lacrosse breezes in playoff opener
LINWOOD — The Mainland Regional girls lacrosse team came into the opening round of the South Jersey Group 3 tournament as a No. 8 seed. Through the first 15 minutes, the Mustangs looked more like a No. 1 seed.
Mainland sprinted out to a 9-2 lead, led 11-5 at halftime, and cruised to a 17-8 win over ninth-seeded Toms River South, winning its first home playoff game ever in the process. Senior Ashley Albright scored all five of her goals in the first half, and sophomore standout Megan Bozzi added eight more as the Mustangs (16-3) had their way with the Indians (15-4). For their efforts, the Stangs now get to travel to Moorestown on Tuesday to take on the top-seeded Quakers, one of the powerhouses of New Jersey girls lacrosse.
"We're completely freaking out right now. It's unreal. We're so happy. All of us, all day, we were excited, listening to music, just getting in the zone. Once we got on the field, we were like, 'oh, my God, they are only one seed lower than us. They could come out and beat us.' But we just needed to do what we always do and be on our 'A' game, as corny as that sounds," said Gab Cohen, who scored a pair of goals. "Everybody played tremendously. There are always games when I get nervous, with me being a defender, we could get sloppy, but we were all clean today."
The defense of Catherine Samara, Allison Hoelker and Amanda O'Donnell, along with freshman goalie Ciara Reeves, shut down a Toms River South team that had scored 55 goals in its past four games. Indians sophomore Jen Toal, who came into the game with more than 100 career goals, scored just once on Mainland's defensive unit.
"We never try to give anybody an inch. They scored two quick goals right before the half, so that made me a little nervous. I'm not going to sit here and rattle off every starter's name, but every single kid did their job — and then some. For us to hold (Toal) to one goal is unbelievable. That's a huge compliment to our defense. And our goalie did a great job, she's only a freshman. Mainland girls lacrosse has a bright future," said Mustangs coach Bernadette Daley. "Amanda O'Donnell is probably our anchor on defense. She's really become an intelligent defensive person to have back there. She knows how to guard the crease roll, and if she needs to help when she's back on the crease roll she knows who to help against. These kids study the other players. And it's an attribute to have to have your head in the game like that. They wanted it. They wanted to go to Moorestown. That was our goal."
"I contacted one of my friends to ask her about this team because she plays together with some of them. She said (Toal) was their best scorer. We knew if we could shut her down we would have an opportunity to get a lead," Albright said. "I was kind of surprised (with the early lead) because I thought it was going to be more of a back-and-forth game. Our defense rocks. They are the game savers, just as much as our goalie. She really won the game for us. She's going to be great as the years go on."
Molly O'Shea finished with two goals and three assists, as Mainland got all of its scoring from four players. Kacee Boyd led the Indians with four goals and Nina Shirey added two.
Daley said she knows the odds are stacked against her team against Moorestown in the next round, but the Mustangs aren't shying away from the challenge.
"We're going to go out and play exactly the way we did today. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain up there," Daley said. "This will be our third time up there, and I'm looking forward to it. Each year we get better and better against them, and someday I'm hoping we can be at that level."
"(Winning today) is a great feeling. It's great to continue my senior season, because it's going to be pretty upsetting once it's over," Albright said. "I'm excited. It's definitely going to be a challenge up there, but it's going to be a great experience."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays