SCH lacrosse battles to rare win over Notre Dame, 13-12

by Tom Utescher
Posted 4/13/21

Back in March, the girls of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy started out well in Inter-Ac League lacrosse, chalking up victories over Germantown Academy (16-11) and Baldwin School (20-3).

The Blue …

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SCH lacrosse battles to rare win over Notre Dame, 13-12

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Back in March, the girls of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy started out well in Inter-Ac League lacrosse, chalking up victories over Germantown Academy (16-11) and Baldwin School (20-3).

The Blue Devils knew that their biggest challenges still lay ahead, and SCH confronted one of them last Thursday. The Devils went on the road to the Academy of Notre Dame, a team that had gotten the better of them for as long as anyone could remember.

The visitors jumped ahead 5-1, but the Irish recovered and were only trailing by one goal at halftime, 7-6. Notre Dame went ahead by two goals early in the second period and later was up by three with a little over nine minutes remaining. Springside Chestnut Hill drew even at 12-12, then with just under four minutes left senior Cece Reilly scored the game-winner in a 13-12 Blue Devils victory.

In the only other league match for the Irish, they had beaten Agnes Irwin in overtime, and to illustrate the parity at the top of the league, unbeaten Penn Charter also defeated the Irwin Owls in overtime last Wednesday.

At Notre Dame, the Reilly sisters had quite a day. Cece, who will play for the University of Louisville, deposited five goals, while her freshman sister, Alex, scored three. SCH got another hattrick from sophomore Emma Bradbury. Coming out of Gwynedd Mercy Elementary School in 2019 but then deactivated by COVID as an SCH freshman, Bradbury took most of the draws for the Devils during the afternoon, controlling seven of them.

"We're a very young team and we were relatively untested until now," said fourth-year head coach Noelle Powell, "so it was important for us to come out strong. We've had times where we've had nine freshmen on the field. I was so proud today that in a dogfight like this was, our girls gelled and bonded together. They always put their heart and soul into it, and they work hard for one another."

On Tuesday the other two goals for SCH came from senior Brooke Prochniak, a tall, strong midfielder who will play college lax for Hobart/William Smith. One of the other two tri-captains is senior Caroline Reitmeyer, who unfortunately was sidelined due to injury last week. The third senior captain, Ainsley Rexford, always seems to be found at the heart of the defense not only in lacrosse, but also in field hockey and ice hockey. She will be entering the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Another Blue Devil senior, Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate Ashley Lynch (out due to illness last Tuesday), is heading south to Clemson University. Verbal commitments have been made by juniors Brooke Gyllenhaal (Sacred Heart) and Lucy Pearson (Stanford).

Pearson made 12 saves in the SCH goal last Tuesday, matching the number of stops made by Notre Dame senior Quinn Sullivan. She is the last bulwark in the Blue Devils' ever-changing defensive corps, which circles in front of her like a merry-go-round.

"We have nine or 10 girls who rotate through the four slots on low defense," explains Coach Powell. "Most of the time when we change defensive schemes, we'll change the personnel. Lucy holds them all together."

Pearson's understudy in goal is Shay Romero, a sophomore transfer from Upper Moreland High School.

"We had a number of freshmen come into the school, and we got in three 10th-graders who transferred," notes Powell.

Bradbury, the sophomore who entered in 2019 but is just now getting to experience her first real season with the Devils, seized the opening draw last Thursday. Fouled farther down the field, she drove in off of the free position to get the visitors on the board 15 seconds into the match. In the second minute, Alex Reilly scored from just off the right edge of the crease. When SCH shots missed the mark, the ball was often chased down behind the goal by another ninth-grader, Maddy Caliendo, who vacuumed up a team-leading eight ground balls.

After the early 2-0 Springside lead, Notre Dame got on the board thanks to freshman M.K. Dwyer, who struck with a little over three minutes gone.

Over the next 70 seconds each of SCH's Reilly sisters scored, and following a Notre Dame time-out, Cece Reilly found the net again to make it 5-1 with 18:42 still remaining in the first period.

The Irish rallied and Springside would never be up by four goals again, but the Devils did lead by three when Prochniak scored six minutes before halftime to make it 7-4. Before the period ended, though, the Irish put in a pair of goals in a span of half-a-minute to reduce their deficit to one point for the break, 7-6.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Notre Dame would also pump in the first two goals of the second half, taking the lead for the first time that afternoon. Coming in from the right, Cece Reilly faked the keeper and then put in a high shot, knotting things up at 8-8 with 21:44 left in the game.

Soon after that, the Irish embarked on a 4-1 run that extended over 11 minutes. Now down 12-9, SCH began its final, successful rally with a little over seven-and-a-half minutes remaining. Prochniak drove from the right to fire a ball that bounced off the keeper, and Bradbury was in position on the weak side to scoop up the rebound and score.

As the clock dropped to 6:58, Notre Dame's Katie Onderdonk was called for a check to the head and received her second yellow card of the game. The sophomore had funneled in a game-high six goals for the home team. The free position opportunity went to her fellow 10th grader, SCH's Bradbury, who converted to bring the Blue Devils back within one goal of the leaders.

Play ranged up and down the pitch for the next few minutes, then on an SCH clear a determined Alex Reilly motored out of the Blue Devils' defensive half and continued to accelerate up the middle until she was able to shoot the tying goal. Notre Dame called time-out with the tally at 12-12 with 4:39 to go.

The elder Reilly would net the eventual game-winner with 3:53 on the clock, coming from behind the cage, crossing in front of the goal and flipping in a shot over her shoulder.

The imposing Prochniak was now taking the center draws for the Devils, and on the next one it was an empty stick call against the Irish that gave the visitors possession of the ball. They ran it around the offensive half for a spell, but then turned the ball over with about a minute and 45 seconds remaining.

An outside shot by Notre Dame was pocketed by Pearson, who cleared the ball upfield to Alex Reilly. A final inkling of hope for the Irish appeared when the Blue Devils lost the ball near the Notre Dame goal cage, but the Devils won a scramble for the loose nugget wide out behind the goal on the right. The game clock soon expired.

"The girls are really playing well together now," Powell summed up. "It's all for the team; there are no big egos out there. We don't have that many seniors, but most of them are four-year varsity players and they help the younger girls along."

Powell is in her third season as head coach at Springside Chestnut Hill. Her assistants are Steve Maszczak, who played at Penn State, and Bridget Meade and Veronica Baez. Meade and Baez both played for Powell when she coached the women's lacrosse team at Penn State Abington.

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