Ocean City —
The Ocean City girls lacrosse team had three teams in its crosshairs before the season began, knowing control of the Cape Atlantic League would likely rest on being able to beat that trio.
The players and coach referred to those teams as the three Ms – Middle Township, Mainland and Millville.
The Lady Raiders beat Middle Township to open the season, defeated rival Mainland, and handed Millville, last year’s co-champ in the Cape Atlantic League, its first loss of the season earlier this month.
On Friday, May 12, Ocean City made it two in a row against Millville, beating the Lady Thunderbolts 13-8 at home and putting themselves alone atop the CAL.
The season isn’t done, but sweeping Millville has been crossed off the “to do” list.
“It was really good to beat Millville for the second time,” said senior Carling Mott, “because our whole team played together from the lowest attack through our defense and our goalie. Playing together is the most important part.”
“This makes us the toughest team in the CAL,” said fellow senior Nicole Barbieri.
“We had a lot of doubles and interceptions and we did pretty good off of (Millville) taking eight-meter shots,” added Sarah Dalsey, “and staying tight with their attackers.”
“Overall from the beginning of the season ... I believe we have improved immensely,” said senior Shannon Brady. “Our transitions have gotten better, we’ve learned how to keep our cool and we’re very unified.”
“We definitely improved a lot,” Barbieri said. “I couldn’t be prouder of our team.”
“We’ve become a family,” Mott said.
Ocean City senior Megan Devlin started the scoring just more than a minute into the game and then made it 2-0 at the 23:00 mark. Keeping the game tight, as it would remain for the first half, Millville’s Katie Parent scored and teammate Megan Hoffman tied it about 17 minutes left.
Kelly Hannah put Ocean City ahead again, but Millville’s Corrine Etler tied the game at 3-3 with 13:32 left in the half. Etler put Millville up for the first – and only time – at the 9:36 mark, 4-3, but Lady Raider Tess Solazzo scored three more times unanswered to give Ocean City a 6-4 lead at the half.
Solazzo got her fourth goal of the game to give Ocean City a 7-4 lead three minutes into the second half, but Millville’s Kiara Brown narrowed the gap to 7-5 a few minutes later and teammate Marki Groves scored to make it a one-goal game at 7-6 with 18 minutes to go.
Not long afterwards, two things happened.
One: Lady Raider Casey Hannah caught fire, scoring three goals in a seven-minute span, broken up only by a score from teammate Abby Lyons and one by Millville’s Groves to make it 11-7.
Two: Millville’s Etler earned a second yellow card for “dangerous propelling” in a melee with a trio of Ocean City defenders in front of the Lady Raider goal, taking away one of the Lady Thunderbolts’ key scoring threats. Millville went scoreless for almost 15 of the last 16 minutes of the game.
The call that got Etler tossed from the game came in the midst of the melee when she tried to score a goal two feet in front of the Ocean City net by firing a shot between her legs without looking. Etler missed the goal; she took the shot seconds after getting hit in the back of the head by a lacrosse stick by an Ocean City defender.
Brady said despite Millville’s loss of Etler, lacrosse is a team sport and one player shouldn’t make the difference in the game. However, she added, “Whenever someone else goes down, it puts us up.”
Jamie Parent scored once more goal for Millville with 86 seconds left in the game.
Ocean City’s Solazzo scored once more with two minutes to go and Casey Hannah got her fourth goal on an open net with two seconds left, providing the 13-8 final margin.
Ocean City coach Matt Lane, talking about his 11-3 team that has only one division loss, said keeping Millville off the board started with his attackers.
“We knew what we had to do going into this game,” Lane said. “We focused yesterday’s practice on defense.
“The defense had a lot of pressure lifted off their backs in the aspect that the attacking end of the field played defense from the end line to the restraining line, which had some crucial turnovers.... Our defense had a very good, solid game, but all the way across the board from the attacking end to the defensive end everybody had a hand in it.
“Definitely the words of the day are teamwork and composure,” Lane said. “It was very physical. The game was very emotional. I think our girls did a great job of keeping their composure and not losing their cool in situations ... that presented themselves frequently.
“We just settled the ball today,” Lane said. “We really didn’t force anything. Even when it was tight, I think our girls made good decisions. In a game where you could easily lose your cool, our girls didn’t do that.”
Lane said everything moves fast when games are between such competitive teams.
Ocean City lost a non-league game to Rancocas Valley earlier in the week, but with only one loss in the division, Ocean City “is at the top of the charts right now,” according to Lane. That loss came against Egg Harbor Township.
Monday’s game against Mainland Regional was postponed.