Southern Girls Lacrosse Team ‘More Cohesive’ on Offense
Four games into the season, the Southern Regional girls lacrosse team was struggling a bit. Coach Lori Johnson’s Rams had lost three of their first four and weren’t scoring too much, averaging less than six goals per game.
But something changed between April 3, when the Rams lost a 4-3 contest to Central Regional, and April 5, when they took on Shore Conference Class A South rival Jackson Memorial, Johnson’s former program.
“We got more serious,” said senior attacker Kelly Fontana. “We finally figured out some things, and started using everybody on the field. It took us a little time but we got used to each other. Then our offense started to get better, and now we’ve won three straight.”
On Tuesday, April 11, sophomore midfielder Alexis Maul fired in a shot from 10 yards with just under two minutes to go and the Rams knocked off Brick Memorial, 8-7, for their third straight victory. On April 5, Southern got by Jackson, 12-9, and two days later routed Brick, 16-2.
“We lost three of our top four scorers to graduation last year,” Johnson said. “And even though Shannon Lytle, who scored 30 goals last year, was back, Lauryn Flynn was our next-highest scorer back. So we had to develop some new attackers on offense. And our schedule was tough at the start of the season. Now, they’re starting to become more cohesive.”
With an offense centered around senior attacker Flynn and junior midfielder Lytle, who each scored three goals against the Mustangs, the Rams are going to be looking to balance things out as the season goes along, particularly with senior attackers Crystina Blaney, Rachel Bialecki and Alina Devane; senior midfielder Brooke Ciaccio; junior midfielder Brooke Little; and Maul, who had two goals against Brick Memorial, in the mix.
“We need to work the ball around better and take smarter shots,” Johnson said. “But as the season moves along, I don’t think opposing teams will be able to face guard just one or two players.”
Against Brick, Flynn, Lytle and Little each scored three goals, while Bialecki popped in a pair of goals. Ciaccio, Devane, Fontana, Maul and junior attacker Maddie Leyh each fired in a goal as well. Against the Jaguars, Flynn scored four times, while Blaney, Maul and Lytle each had two goals.
Defensively, the Rams should be solid this spring, starting with senior goaltender Clare McCarthy, who had 22 saves during the last three victories, anchoring the back. In front of her will be seniors Kayla Brunner, Nicole Barcz, Kaitlyn Spaschak and Jordan Karpon; and juniors Rachel Saur, Danielle Bialecki, Michelle Martin and Rachel Montasano trying to help keep goals out of the net.
“So far, our defense has been phenomenal,” Johnson said. “Clare has made some huge saves during the first seven games, and she’s just solid. And in front of her, we have a lot of smart players who can move the ball well from the back. Our defense will keep us in most games.”
In the A South division, staying within striking distance – or, of course, putting games away as early as possible, such as in the win over the Green Dragons – is going to be key, because it will allow Southern’s athletic group up front to press the attack and make things happen.
Still, putting goals in the net is easier said than done in most instances.
“We have to set up better shots and get the ball on goal more,” Fontana said. “And that’s going to rely on all our players on offense to have a better vision of the field to find the open girl. We’ve been getting double up a lot on either side. So we have to look to make that one pass to the open player so we get better scoring chances. So far, we’ve been a little slow at developing that, but it’s something we can fix.”
Coach Johnson is banking on that, too.
“I demand a lot from our girls. The expectations of our players are high,” she said. “But we have a lot of good athletes on this team, and they’re a close-knit group of girls who enjoying playing with and for each other. I’m hoping that makes a difference later in the season.”
— David Biggy