by Tom Utescher
Near the beginning of the 2014 girls lacrosse season, a bout between Germantown Friends School and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy came down to the final seconds, with the GFS Tigers emerging with a 13-12 victory. For the more recent Pennsylvania Independent Schools Championships, the teams were seeded just one place apart, GFS coming in as number four with a 16-2 overall record, and the fifth-seeded SCH Blue Devils entering the contest with a mark of 10-7.
That positioned the teams for a quarterfinal-round clash on May 19, and the rematch wasn’t nearly as close as their first encounter, with the Tigers taking a 11-4 lead by halftime, then working past an SCH rally early in the second period to win, 14-9.
Junior Grayson Melby, who shot the game-winner for Germantown when the teams played back in April, was the high scorer the second time around, netting four goals while hat tricks were marked down for two of her classmates, Greta Meyer and Ava Schwemler (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate). There were two markers by fellow 11th-grader Annie Tyson, and Schuyler Nissen and Claire Schmidt each scored once while their senior classmate Dana Schulman made nine saves in goal.
Just two days earlier, the Tigers had claimed the 2014 Friends Schools League title, knocking off four-time defending champion Friends Central in a 10-8 final. GFS had won the league back in 2009, but then had lost to the FC Phoenix in the next four championship games. During the regular season this year, the Tigers rolled past Friends Central, 19-8.
Springside Chestnut Hill wound up exactly in the middle of the seven-school Inter-Ac League. The Blue Devils’ 6-6 record reflected season sweeps over Baldwin School, Notre Dame, and Penn Charter, and while SCH played close contests against Agnes Irwin and Germantown Academy the second time they faced those teams, they lost two matches apiece to the Owls and the Patriots, as well as a pair to Episcopal Academy.
In last week’s tournament quarterfinal, junior Maddy Aslansan posted a hat trick for SCH, which received single goals from the lone senior on the roster, Winter Chernak, as well as juniors Allie Billick and Carlin Rode, sophomore Natalie Schwartz, and freshmen Taylor Ferry and Morgan Fitton-Zellers. Sophomore goalkeeper Elsa Rall was credited with 14 saves in the match.
The Blue Devils seized the opening draw, but soon turned the ball over, and the game was barely a minute-and-a-half old when Meyer put GFS on the board with shot to the upper left corner. The junior scored in transition four minutes later, then with almost seven minutes elapsed the visitors got on the board when Aslansan isolated a Tigers defender and drove past her for a successful shot.
Just 45 seconds after that, SCH had the match tied at 2-2, with junior Sinéad Brierley transporting the ball through the midfield and delivering it to the scorer, Ferry, in front of the Tigers’ cage. Next, Schwartz made a cut towards the goal and converted off of a feed from behind the goal by Chernak, giving the visitors what would be their lone lead of the afternoon, at 3-2.
This occurred with a dozen minutes remaining in the first half, and Germantown quickly pulled even as Meyer zipped down off the center draw to complete a personal hat trick. In the same minute, Nissen, a University of Cincinnati signee, made good on a free position opportunity to give the Tigers a lead they never lost. Markers by Melby (off of a failed SCH clear) and by Schmidt soon followed, and the hosts held a 6-3 advantage with nine-and-a-half minutes still to play in the opening period.
GFS head coach Katie Bergstrom-Mark pointed out, “We have good speed on attack, so if everyone works hard to get low off the draw and in transition, we get a lot of shooting opportunities. Our defense also did a nice job of bringing the ball out, being patient, using backpasses when they needed to, and finding the right people to make the connections. We handled [SCH’s] midfield pressure much better than we did the first time we played them.”
Aslansan’s second strike for the visitors got them back within two points of the lead, but the Tigers answered with two goals in a 23-second span (with 4:43 and 4:20 remaining) by Tyson and Schwemler. Springside Chestnut Hill applied some pressure at the other end, but the Tigers’ Schulman cast out the Devils by spurning low shots from Schwartz and Ferry.
The real killer for SCH was a three-goal burst by the home team in the final 76 seconds of the half. Tyson started the string and Melby scored the other two, placing their squad on a seven-goal halftime cushion, with the count now at 11-4.
The Blue Devils have put together some nice second-half runs against good teams this season, and over the first dozen minutes of the second period, they came back within three goals of the Tigers. Fitton-Zellers carried the ball more than half the length of the field to get SCH going a little over three minutes into the second period. After that, Aslansan, Rode, and Chernak all found the net to close the score up to 11-8.
GFS needed to steady itself and stop its slide, and it was Schwemler who applied the brakes to the SCH surge as she scored back-to-back goals with 10:52 and 10:36 left to play. Meyer helped set up the second goal by snagging the ball off of the intervening draw, and on the first play, Schwemler came from behind on a nice clear-out sequence by GFS.
“Ava’s crease roll was beautiful,” Bergstrom-Mark commented, “because all of the players who had scored a lot early in the game brought their defenders through [the arc] so Ava had room to work. Springside did a nice job of regrouping at halftime, so we needed to answer that.”
With 7:41 remaining, the Tigers’ final total appeared on the scoreboard as Melby notched her fourth goal of the day, and the Blue Devils’ last point came courtesy of Billick with 1:46 to play.
UPDATE – Two days after the victory over SCH, Germantown Friends was edged, 12-11, by top-seeded Agnes Irwin in a semifinal match. Irwin broke out of a halftime tie to go up 12-7, but the Tigers battled back to take the game down to the wire. A Friends Schools League team still captured the tournament title, though, as Friends Central won Friday night’s title bout, 13-11, over Agnes Irwin, which was playing its fourth game in a five-day span.