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Mater Dei 20, Varsity 7 (Playoffs)

May 8, 2015


To quote the great C. S. Lewis, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”  Probably something that we all know in our hearts but seldom think about consciously.

As the Trabuco Hills Girls Lacrosse varsity left the bus to meet Mater Dei on the Monarchs’ home turf on Thursday, one thing was for sure: they would have something even grander to look forward to or they would be ready to leave this 2nd round play-off match-up behind in the past, depending on how things unfolded over the next couple of hours.

Either way, everyone knew this was going to be a war, not necessarily on a Narnian scale, but one to determine who would advance to the semi-final round of the US Lacrosse Orange County playoff bracket.

Play got off to an auspicious start for the Mustangs as Kody Shelton faced off against the bigger and taller Monarch center.  Trying to out-muscle one another, the ball did not go far but drew an immediate crowd.  Mater Dei came away with it, but both teams would spend fruitless time in the opposing zone before the Monarchs passed into an open seam in the middle of the slot after 4 ∏ minutes of play to notch the first goal of the game.  The following draw resulted in a mad scramble at the side of the circle, with Kendall Derbyshire emerging with the ball and carrying it around the entire Mater Dei zone before zipping a pass to Madison DuMond in the slot and the game was tied.

The Monarchs, who would eventually dominate the stat sheet for ground ball retrievals, came away with the next draw after it bounced around a few sticks, but were forced into a turnover after being awarded a free position.  Audie Shutler took the ball for a strong carry deep into Mater Dei territory where she found Derbyshire with a pass.  A foul gave Derbyshire the free position and Trabuco Hills took the lead, 2-1!  On the next sequence, Shelton came up with the ball deep in the Mustang end and carried out of danger before firing a pass to Marina Sandoval.  Quick passes sent to ball to Becca Haggard, then over to Derbyshire, who then returned it to a cutting Sandoval for the shot, but it went wide.  However, the Mustangs were dictating play.  With momentum starting to build, the Monarch goalie had some sort of “equipment issue” that required an extended stoppage in play.  Once play finally resumed, it became a much different game.

A turnover by Trabuco Hills gave Mater Dei the ball with room to run.  A beautiful stretch pass put the Monarch attacker in on keeper Erin Beall 1-on-1, and the score was tied again.  A free position gave Mater Dei the lead again.  Then a weaving run through traffic allowed for another shot that deflected off of a defender as well as Beall but somehow snuck in.  Another loose ball win led to unanswered goal #5.

Coach Scott Leong started rotating players to take the draws, adding Shannon Smith and Ashley Bradshaw to the mix in an attempt to thwart what was becoming a Mater Dei stronghold.  Jenelle Phillips attempted to break the flow of Monarch goals after DuMond recovered a rare mistake by the Monarchs and carried the ball into the attacking zone.  Getting it over to Derbyshire, it ended up behind the net where she flipped it to Phillips, who powered her way to the front for the score.  Unfortunately, Mater Dei responded with a strong weaving run and slick passing for a point blank score.  Tensions on the field were getting heated as Mater Dei players were stepping up the hard checks and strong body positions on both ends of the field, creating turnovers and frustration for the girls in blue.  Another fast break goal preceded a timeout, which allowed things to be reduced to a simmer for the time being.

The Mustangs were haunted by the return of the inability to control loose balls, something that plagued the team early in the season.  Along with outstanding work on the draws, Mater Dei was now completely dictating play themselves, and it was as if they could score at will.  Trabuco Hills seemed to have no answers for the long passes that shortened the field, the quick and accurate in-tight passes that opened up shooting lanes, or the high-skilled offensive sets that kept coming in waves.  Four unanswered goals were finally interrupted by a Phillips tally, earned off of a scramble at mid-field, but another loose ball win and a Mustang turn-over gave the Monarchs a commanding 14-4 lead going into halftime.

As the 2nd half opened, Trabuco Hills came away with the draw and looked to set up their comeback.  An unfortunate turnover in front of the Mater Dei net sent the Monarchs off to the races, stretching the field quickly with long, accurate passes, leading to yet another score.  They would add 3 more to the scoreboard before going into an extended slow-down lasting over 5 minutes.  The Mustangs were finally able to coax the ball away and send players to the other end of the field, where Phillips was awarded a free position and recorded her 3rd goal of the contest.  Another rush by the Mustangs saw Phillips flying down the middle of the slot, where she received a slash on the wrist as she released her shot.  Goal?  Yes.  Injury?  Yes.  Foul?  No.  Just another casualty of war, apparently.

With Trabuco Hills attacking again, Mater Dei took the reins off of their offense and buried another shot, as if they could do it any time they chose to.  DuMond was given a free position as time was running down to give the Mustangs their 7th goal, but then the Monarchs went right back down and scored again as the clock was ticking down.

Was a 20-7 loss the finish that the Trabuco Hills faithful were hoping for?  Certainly not. And it’s a shame that this will be the last game that matters for the graduating seniors.  But stepping back, there is a lot for this squad to be proud of this year.  Great resiliency. Character.  Deepening friendships.  Teamwork.  Emerging players.  And the third straight trip to the 2nd round of the playoffs.

Congratulations, Mustangs . . . it’s been a fun ride!!

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