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Varsity 14, Santa Margarita 13

April 17, 2015

Spring time.  Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, it’s a season of freshness and renewal. 

Unless you are a high school lacrosse player, that is, when springtime means time off for spring break and rust developing on your game.  That was the challenge that awaited Trabuco Hills Girls Lacrosse Varsity as they prepared to square off against the Eagles at Santa Margarita Catholic High School on Wednesday evening.

The Mustangs got off to a refreshingly quick start, with Jenelle Phillips potting the first goal of the game just 20 seconds into the contest.  Santa Margarita responded with a quick goal of their own to make it 1-1 after less than 1 minute of play.  The rust was apparent on both sides, however, with several errant passes and dropped balls dominating the next 7 minutes of play.  Even after solid plays, such as Kody Shelton winning a loose ball in a scrum and moving it down the field, Trabuco managed to turn the ball over in front of the Santa Margarita net.  Fortunately for the Mustangs, the sloppy play was offset by determined defenders, with Shelton, Hannah Moller, and Ashly Bradshaw each playing key roles.

Santa Margarita finally broke the stalemate by converting at the 17:00 mark. Phillips then took a ball away from an Eagle attacker and hit Kendall Derbyshire with a long pass, who then fired a perfect feed to Taylor Fox to knot the score again.  Off of the next draw, the Eagles controlled the ball and wove their way through several Mustangs to retake the lead.  A turnover at midfield during the next sequence led to a free position for Santa Margarita, which increased the lead to 2.  After gaining possession of the following draw, Derbyshire made a great move to get free at the top of the arc and snuck a long shot past the Eagle net minder.  Phillips followed that up with a strong individual effort to beat the Eagle keeper with a long shot of her own.  4-4.

The Eagles were doing a good job of creating free position opportunities for themselves by drawing Mustang defenders into fouls or shooting space violations.  Trabuco Hills keeper Erin Beall was solid in net yet again and made several key saves, but one finally slipped by her.  On the Mustangs next possession, Derbyshire showed great awareness as she looked for openings before zipping an accurate feed to Juliet Mooney camped on the Eagle doorstep, who promptly deposited the ball behind their keeper.  After the team allowed a free path to the net on Santa Margarita’s next goal, Trabuco Hills’ Madison DuMond answered back by feeding Marina Sandoval in stride as she slashed across the slot and placed her name on the scorer’s sheet.  A pair of quick-stick goals by the Eagles pushed their lead back to 2, but DuMond was able to draw a free position and notch her own goal before the half expired. 

Trailing 8-7, the Mustangs knew they had to clean things up.  Santa Margarita was dominating in the center circle, no matter who Trabuco Hills was sending out there, and the passing and loose ball issues were still plaguing the frustrated squad.

DuMond, who was playing a strong game on both ends of the field, drew the center assignment to open the 2nd half.  In controlling the opening draw, Trabuco Hills went into a patient and deliberate offensive set, hbefore Derbyshire took advantage of an opening and tied the score at 8.  A lot of back-and-forth action followed, with neither team seizing control of the myriad of  loose balls or scoring chances that kept occurring, until almost 8 minutes later, Phillips was finally able to connect a pass to Derbyshire from the top of the 12 meter arc to give the Mustangs their first lead since the first minute of the game.  This seemed to wake the Eagles up, who promptly marched down and, after connecting 3 quick passes near the top of the slot, tied the game. Three more unanswered goals put the Mustangs in their first real hole of the game, before Mooney was awarded a free position to temporarily break the momentum.  Santa Margarita responded with a free position goal of their own to push the lead back to 3.  Ashley Murillo won a key loose ball after the Eagles had taken possession again, carrying it down the sideline and eventually finding Derbyshire, who proceeded to slash through the Eagle defenders to tally her 4th goal of the evening, which seemed to be just the spark the Mustang offense needed.

Bradshaw won a tough battle for the ball in the Trabuco Hills end and fought hard to carry the ball out of danger, eventually finding Fox as she broke free of her defender and beat the Eagles goalie cleanly.  A scramble followed the next draw and Fox dug deep to win the loose ball.  After a stoppage in play, Phillips wrangled her way free and practically willed the ball into the net to tie the score at 13.  A time out with just over 2 minutes remaining momentarily slowed things down, but DuMond, who was a bulldog in the circle, somehow came away with the ball after it drew a huge crowd and seemed like it would not fit into any stick at all.  Setting up their offense, the Mustangs were patient and slowed things down to wait for their opportunity.  DuMond demonstrated smarts and restraint after being given the ball at a less-than-ideal angle, choosing instead to carry around the back of the net and eventually finding Becca Haggard in a seam in front of the goal; Haggard made a move then shot back against the flow, sneaking it just inside the far post to give Trabuco Hills the lead with just over 20 seconds remaining. 

It would all come down to who could win the next draw.

The answer would be Trabuco Hills.  DuMond was able to direct to ball back to Sandoval, who plucked out of the air before an Eagle stick could reach it.  Desperately trying to maintain control, Sandoval, a strong performer all day, eluded several potential stick checks and got the ball over to Fox, who had an open lane down the sideline, far enough to run the clock down to 0:00 and preserve a hard-fought and emotional 14-13 victory.

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