Newtown Square – Conestoga earned a 21-10 win at Episcopal Academy Tuesday in a matchup of girls lacrosse perennial powers, with the help of a red-hot start.
Pioneer senior attack Clark scored twice in the first 2 ½ minutes, then Conestoga junior Melissa Hewitt tallied twice in the next three minutes to give the visitors a 4-0 lead. Only 6 ½ minutes into the contest, Conestoga had a 5-0 lead. By halftime, the Pioneers led, 10-3.
“The first thing our coach always tell us is to start off strong, starting with the first draw and the first goal, get some momentum,” said Clark. “So it was nice that today, with a few quick goals, we got momentum and started working with each other really well.”
Conestoga head coach Amy Orcutt said, “I think we were sharing the ball well, reading the defense and seeing what was working for us. We were creating opportunities for each other, clearing space and being able to drive and draw and dump. I think the offense worked really well together today.”
With the victory, Conestoga, who had opened the season with a 16-10 win against Agnes Irwin, improved to 2-0. EA, who had defeated Baldwin School and Germantown Academy and lost to Penn Charter, fell to 2-2 on the young season.
“EA is always one of our favorite games, they’re always competitive, a really strong team,” said Clark. “It’s a super fun game and this was a good win for us.”
The Churchwomen battled back from their early 5-0 deficit. Midway through the first half, EA senior attack and co-captain Sarah Groark scored to cut Conestoga’s lead to 6-2, then following a Pioneer turnover, Groark tallied from in front of the net to make the score 6-3.
“Sarah is a seasoned attacker and brings a wealth of leadership experience,” said Tomaino. “She’s calm under pressure and can finish the ball from anywhere in the 8.”
Conestoga kept EA off the scoreboard for the final 11:52 of the first half while building a 10-3 lead. By halftime, Clark, a University of Virginia commit, had scored four goals.
“Rachel has a quick first step to goal, and an accurate shot,” Orcutt noted in the pre-season.
One minute into the second half Tuesday, Conestoga’s speedy sophomore midfielder Kate Galica scored to give the visitors an 11-3 lead. Galica finished the day with four goals, two draw controls, two ground balls and three caused turnovers.
Conestoga also did well on the draw controls, with freshman Kiki Liebezeit winning seven of them. Clark and Galica combined for five more.
“I thought Kiki (three ground balls, one goal) really stepped up as a freshman in a big game,” said Orcutt. “Senior captain Addi Bucher (three goals, one ground ball) did a good job finding the open player, and our goalie, Alana Lapore (five saves) stepped up and did a nice job.”
Hewitt finished with four goals, two assists, three ground balls and one caused turnover, Piper Kienzle added two goals and senior attack Anna DeVuono tallied one goal.
After EA’s Groark scored her third goal of the game to cut Conestoga’s lead to 11-5 with 19:51 left, the Pioneers came back with a trio of tallies, including back-to-back goals by Kienzle only 21 seconds apart.
The Churchwomen kept up their attack the remainder of the second half, and by the end of the game junior attack Alexa Capozzoli (a Saint Joseph’s University commit) had scored five goals.
“Alexa played well today, drove hard to the cage and helped us put some points up on the board,” said Tomaino, who during the pre-season had noted, “Alexa’s stickwork, vision, creativity and quickness make her an attacker to watch. She’s a vocal leader who will play a major role in our attacking unit.”
Tomaino said, “Lainey [freshman midfielder Lainey McGonagle] had a ton of draw controls (six) today and our midfeld – Lainey, Jordan Morley, Bella Piselli and Sydney Richter – worked really hard on both sides of the ball. I’m proud of their hustle, I think we just didn’t execute [enough].
“I think we have a young team, we’re still learning a lot, like many other teams. I think it’s going to be a long season for us – we’re going to continue to grow and get better with every game.”
Since there will be no Inter-Ac girls’ lacrosse championship this spring, Episcopal Academy has tried to build a tough non-league schedule this spring, facing teams like Conestoga and Garnet Valley (scheduled for Thursday).
“We’re really glad to have the opportunity to play teams like Conestoga and Garnet Valley this week to push us, so that we’re even more ready to play Inter-Ac teams,” said Tomaino. “This is a big PIAA week for us.”
The EA coach praised Churchwomen senior goalie Eloise Richter.
“Eloise did a great job in the cage, is really stepping well to the ball and did a great job on clearing,” said Tomaino. “We’re really proud of her, she’s new to the position, so it’s really awesome to see her grow this season.”
Conestoga 21, Episcopal Academy 10
Conestoga 10 11 – 21
Episcopal Academy 3 7 – 10
Conestoga goals: Clark 6, Galica 4, Hewitt 4, Bucker 3, Kienzle 2, Liebezeit, DeVuono.
Episcopal Academy goals: Capozzoli 5, Groark 3, S. Richter, Piselli.
Goalie saves: CON – Lepore 5. EA – E. Richter 5.