Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Girls lacrosse: Give Good Counsel a high five

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Good Counsel’s Mary Swarthout (2) beats Bishop Ireton’s Jacquie Galdos to a groundball during the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference girls lacrosse championship game Tuesday at the University of Maryland. Swarthout scored four goals to lead the Falcons to an 11-8 win and their fifth consecutive WCAC title.
All season long, Mary Swarthout has been a steadying influence on a young girls lacrosse team at Good Counsel, which counted 16 freshmen and sophomores on its roster this season. Those underclassmen were understandably nervous during Tuesday's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game at Ludwig Field on the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park, and the jitters led to a quick four-goal deficit. That's when Swarthout, a senior attacker, stepped in again.

‘‘I knew that I had to step it up,” she said. ‘‘A lot of the girls had never played in the final, and we needed to get going.”

Swarthout scored four goals, including the knockout blow with four minutes remaining, as Good Counsel (15-6 record) shook off early doldrums to roll to an 11-8 victory over Bishop Ireton, claiming its fifth straight WCAC crown. During that run, the Falcons have won 48 consecutive league games.

‘‘I was sort of waiting for them to start playing,” Good Counsel coach Mike Haight said. ‘‘It seems like we get off to slow starts, but this time it took them a little longer than it usually does. The seniors kept us in the game, and they are a big part of our program, but once we got going, we were on a roll.”

After falling behind 4-0, the Falcons began chipping away at the lead. Freshman Kelly Lechner slipped past the Cardinals to get the ball in the back of the net 12 minutes into the game, lifting the cloud that had been hovering over Good Counsel. Then, Swarthout scored twice, and sophomore Brigid Smith, who scored two goals in the game, wristed a shot past the Cardinals goalie Bridget Corrigan to tie the game at five. Senior Kristen Oakey gave the Falcons their first lead 15 seconds later, and after trailing Ireton 5-1 though the first 16 minutes, they went on a 10-3 run to close out the game.

‘‘It was a team victory,” Haight said. ‘‘The sophomores did not play in this game last year, so for a lot of our players, this was their first experience playing in a championship game, and every player contributed. They have all matured and improved so much that I have confidence to put any player on our roster in at any time.”

Those underclassmen matured, in part, due to the efforts of the seniors. Swarthout, who claimed her fourth WCAC title in her four years at Good Counsel, found this year to be a unique challenge. No longer the wide-eyed youngster taking cues from her elders, she found herself transferring institutional knowledge of the program onto a new generation.

‘‘It was a lot of fun,” she said. ‘‘I had to take on a lot of leadership this year and we [the seniors] had to help show the rest of the team to play as one. It has been a great season.”

That season ended with the Falcons on top of the league once again. A run that started before seniors Swarthout, Oakey, Elaina Ponchione and Whitney Eagleson got there may well continue long after they are gone. Now that the younger Falcons have gotten a chance to hoist the trophy, they will be favorites to do it again next year.

‘‘It's amazing,” Swarthout, who will play at Catholic (D.C.) University next year, said. ‘‘It's been a fantastic run. I am glad that I got to be part of it.”