Julia Lennon saw a small opening, and she took advantage of it.
The senior scored the game winning goal with two defenders in her face to lift Shaker to an 8-7 victory over Guilderland in the Section II Class A girls lacrosse final Wednesday, May 21, at the University at Albany.
Lennon’s shot went around the two Guilderland defenders and tucked inside the post with 50.7 seconds left to give Shaker (16-0) its second Sectional title in the last three years.
“I just saw the opening really fast, and I had to release it very quickly to catch the goalie off guard,” said Lennon.
“She’s really good. That’s all there is to it. She’s just that good,” said Shaker coach Kara DePaula-Lynch.
Guilderland (14-5) did everything in its power to stop Lennon, who entered the game with 83 goals on the season. But despite being double teamed on a regular basis, Lennon still scored four goals.
“Their defense played very well in this game,” said Lennon. “We just figured out we had to spread it out and pass the ball around, and the openings would come.”
“She usually scores six to eight goals a game. She didn’t today,” said Guilderland coach Carrie Britt. “We played very well, considering we were on defense most of the game.”
The first five minutes of last Wednesday’s final was similar to last year’s Class A championship game between the two Suburban Council powers in that Guilderland took advantage of a yellow card penalty to strike for two goals. Cara Quimby got the first one 40 seconds after Sarah Cheney was sent off, and Katie Becker tallied the second one 40 seconds after Quimby’s goal to put the Lady Dutch ahead 2-0.
DePaula-Lynch called a time out with 19:12 left in the first half following a Morgan Hardt goal to give Guilderland a 3-0 cushion. The message she gave her team was clear: don’t forget what happened one month earlier when Shaker rallied for a 12-11 overtime win against the Lady Dutch.
“Just stay composed. We were down two goals with 40 seconds left in the second half in that game, and we came back and won,” said DePaula-Lynch.
Slowly but surely, Shaker clawed its way back into the game. Maeve Lennon got the Blue Bison on the board with 15:18 left in the first half, and Carlie Maxwell tallied slightly more than four minutes later to close the gap to 3-2.
Shaker goaltender Julia Maloney made a big save on Hardt’s point-blank shot with less than five minutes left in the first half to keep it a one-goal game. Hardt, though, got her revenge two minutes later when she stormed in front of the goal and stuffed a shot past Maloney for a 4-2 Guilderland advantage.
Julia Lennon – who had been rendered silent by Guilderland’s defense through the first 23:30 – brought Shaker back before halftime. Dodging between three Lady Dutch defenders, Lennon fired the ball past goaltender Kaitlyn Hess to trim Guilderland’s lead to 4-3.
That was only the beginning from the elder Lennon. She got her second goal 2:03 into the second half to tie the score at 4-4. Later with Guilderland leading 7-6, she fired a shot over a Lady Dutch defender’s stick and Hess’ left shoulder to knot the score again.
Shaker also received second half contributions from unlikely sources. Junior Darby King put the Blue Bison ahead 5-4 with her third goal of the season, and Kailey Dodd assisted on Lennon’s third goal of the night for her 20th point of 2014.
“She’s been waiting to peak all year, and when it mattered the most she came through,” DePaula-Lynch said of King.
Maloney and Shaker’s defense kept Hardt off the scoreboard in the second half, but other Guilderland players stepped up. Shannon Mackesey and Rebecca Golderman tallied in a 2:01 time span to put the Lady Dutch ahead 6-5, and Mackesey scored 91 seconds after Shaker’s Kailyn Hart knotted the score at 6-6 to give Guilderland another one-goal cushion.
Ultimately, though, it was Julia Lennon who had the final say as her fourth goal of the night sent Shaker into the regionals Wednesday, May 28, in Kingston against the Section IX champion.
“It feels really great to get the game winner,” said Lennon.