East Catholic Girls Lacrosse Struggles in Loss to Conard

MANCHESTER-After starting the season 9-0 while averaging 18 goals per game, the East Catholic girls lacrosse team faced its toughest opponent of the season Saturday afternoon when it hosted Conard. The Eagles failed to play up to Conard’s level in every facet of the game, losing 20-8 to a Chieftains squad that looked every bit like one of the best in the state.

Sophomore Alexa Weber scored four goals for East Catholic (9-1. Conard (8-2) had four players score multiple goals, led by midfielder Maya Freigenbaum’s 4.

“Conard is an incredible team and they have a lot of confidence in each other,” Eagles head coach Brian Wilcox said. “They are a much bigger school, and they showed why they’re a good team today.”

The Chieftains wasted no time getting going, scoring the opening four goals in just over six minutes. Midfielder Gwen Geisler got them started, scoring on a penalty shot 46 seconds into the match. Just 32 seconds later attacker Kate Shaffer scored, and she followed up with another goal 4:12 in when she beat goalie Kiely Callahan off a well-timed pass from defenseman Alexandra Tousignant. Geisler put Conard up 4-0 two minutes later on her second penalty shot. Throughout this opening stretch, Conard did a good job of setting up scoring opportunities with their passes, while the East Catholic defense struggled to keep up with their playmakers.

After failing to maintain possession for more than a few seconds, East Catholic broke through 7:10 in when junior Natalie Heaney scored an impressive goal in defensive traffic. The Chieftains responded by drawing and scoring on a third penalty shot a minute later, with attacker Kiley Phelan scoring this time. Weber than took circumstances into her own hands, rushing down the field and beating goalie Laruen Schied high 10:44 in to make it 5-2.

Conard answered Weber’s score with a trio of goals, each assisted. Freigenbaum scored at the 11:11 mark, beating Callahan low off a pass from Geisler. After a handful of quick passes, Tousignant scored 35 seconds later, with the assist going to Freigenbaum. Then with 10:58 remaining in the first half, Shaffer made the score 8-2 off a pass from defenseman Gillian Haverty.

In the final ten-plus minutes of the half, the East Catholic offense began playing more efficiently. East Catholic scored twice in just 15 seconds to make it 8-4, as Weber made a penalty shot at the 10:12 mark and freshman Jillian Mountford immediately scored off a faceoff. Phelan and Freigenbaum responded by scoring again to give the Chieftains a 10-4 lead with 6:28 remaining. From there, freshman Alivia Mountford, senior Marissa Bazzano and Weber scored for the Eagles, while Freigenbaum scored twice (second on a penalty kick) and Haverty and her sister Marisa each scored once, giving Conard a 14-7 halftime lead. The Chieftains won the majority of face-offs and ground balls in both halves.

“Conard passed the ball well in the first half,” Wilcox said. “We always play defense aggressively and changed things up a couple of times to try and slow them down, but Conard had so many athletes that it was very hard to keep them away from the goal.”

Wilcox said the Eagles offense improved in the first half as it settled in.

“We were nervous entering the game and early. Once players stopped trying to do too much themselves and leaned on their teammates, the offense started playing well,” he said.

In the second half, Conard took away any hope of an Eagles comeback by maintaining possession for a large majority of it. The Chieftains were able to play keep-away through their deliberate passing and ability to avoid turnovers and scored timely goals. East Catholic was unable to convert on the few scoring opportunities it created, with Scheid making a handful of difficult saves. Wilcox attributed many of these struggles to his team’s smaller lineup, a result of previous injuries and four yellow cards assigned to the Eagles.

Phelan and Shaffer scored the opening two goals of the half in the first five minutes, both coming off passes from Haverty. Following a goal by Tousignant, Weber scored immediately after on a penalty shot to make it 17-7. Geisler (assist by Freigenbaum), Phelan and Freigenbaum would score Conard’s final three goals, the final two coming on penalty shots.

The game was both Conard’s highest-scoring of the season and East Catholic’s lowest scoring by far.

Following the game, Weber talked about the offense’s performance in detail.

“I think we were able to push the ball up the field and find open players when available, but we could have worked on getting open and avoiding being face-guarded,” Weber said. “We need to work on getting open and finding picks going forward.”

Weber also praised Conard’s effort and toughness.

“On both ends, they pushed it harder than us and did not give up on any opportunities and their players did not allow us to get close,” she said.

Wilcox and Weber were both confident that East Catholic can rebound from the big loss, and are focused on the team reaching its ultimate goals.

“From here on out, we are focused on winning the CCC and ultimately the Class S title. I believe in these guys and their ability to win Class S, and they believe in each other,” Wilcox said. “We are ready to make that run.”

“We just need to learn from mistakes and continue to work harder on and off the field as a team. If we can keep our heads high, we’re capable of winning every game,” Weber said.

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