Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Saints stop Holton’s march

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Surely, this was not the way that Lucy Hayes wanted her career as a girls lacrosse player at Holton-Arms to end.

Yet, with her team trailing top-seeded St. Stephen’s⁄St. Agnes by double digits in the final minutes of Sunday’s Independent School League AA division semifinal game at Bullis, Hayes was still going full-speed, despite already earning a yellow card.

In an effort to stop the Saints from getting yet another goal, she careened into an attacker, drawing another yellow card, getting her sent off the field for good. From the sidelines, she watched the Panthers fall, 16-3, to end their season, but like Hayes, they did so unbowed.

‘‘Lucy is a powerful player and she always comes up huge for us,” Holton-Arms coach Alivian Coates-Jorgensen said. ‘‘She is a game changer.”

Against St. Stephen’s⁄St. Agnes, though, that was not enough. The Saints are a national powerhouse in girls lacrosse, and the six-time defending champions of the league. They will move on to face Georgetown Visitation Tuesday in the championship game, also at Bullis, and enter that game as the heavy favorite. Coates-Jorgensen did not dwell on what they did to Holton-Arms, as much as what Holton-Arms did to get to this game.

‘‘It is always tough to lose, but we played a great team,” she said. ‘‘This was a season of highs and lows, but the high times were fantastic.”

The Panthers committed themselves to a tough schedule this year, and opened the season with losses to three of Maryland’s top teams in Mount de Sales, the Severn School and Good Counsel. It was not until the fifth regular-season game that Holton tasted a win, an 18-4 defeat of Holy Child.

From there, the Panthers (6-8) regrouped and showed their poise and skill, the pinnacle of which was an 11-5 win over the National Cathedral School in an ISL quarterfinal, knocking out a team that defeated it during the regular season. Leading that turnaround was Hayes, who will play at the University of North Carolina next year, and midfielder Bailey Fogarty, headed to play at the University of Virginia.

‘‘Bailey is the best competitor that I have ever coached,” Coates-Jorgensen said. ‘‘If any of her teammates would describe her, they would call her a passionate competitor, and it didn’t matter whether it was a game or practice, she always went at the same speed. I don’t know if I have even processed that I am not going to be coaching them anymore.”

Hayes and Fogarty led nine seniors that came off the field on Sunday having played in their last high school game. Defender Caroline Duffy was described as an emotional leader, while Angela Chang provided quick feet and heart. Catherine Swanson came into the program as a sophomore, unable to catch and throw with accuracy, but made her stick skills a strong point of her game. She will continue her lacrosse career at Stanford University.

‘‘That makes you proud as a coach,” Coates-Jorgensen said. ‘‘She has improved so much as a player it is tremendous. I said to all of these girls, that I want them to continue to play as long as they can. Sports are awesome in that aspect.”

The Panthers will continue to improve. Six of the 12 starters will be back next year, including Emily Whicker and Allie Bosch, and they will likely get another shot at the Saints. Maybe the next time, the result will be different, but the larger picture is to continue their playing careers beyond Holton-Arms.

‘‘I hope that I get to watch these girls play in college,” Coates-Jorgensen said. ‘‘Four of my former players are playing in the NCAA tournament this weekend. I hope that we can continue that next year.”