- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Sure, Severna Park goalie Rachel Vander Kolk was the one holding the championship plaque after her team won a nail-biter of a title game.
And sure it was on the Leonardtown Raiders’ home field, but that did not stop the Leonardtown girls lacrosse team and coaches from standing and applauding.
The crowd joined in unison as Vander Kolk raised the 4A-3A East Region championship plaque up high after fifth-seeded Severna Park of Anne Arundel County edged second-seeded Leonardtown in a 13-12 victory.
Vander Kolk’s sister, Tracy, also a member of the lacrosse team, died on May 10 and the Falcons and Raiders each shared in the pain as many of the Leonardtown team members, who play with Severna Park players in the offseason, knew both Tracy and Rachel.
But before either team could raise the plaque, a game had to be played and Severna Park was able to come back from a four-goal deficit to earn the victory.
Leading the charge in the comeback was Vander Kolk (4 saves), who started the second half at goalie and held a Leonardtown team that had nine first-half goals to three in the second.
Severna Park took its first lead of the game late in the second half, a 12-11 lead with 5 minutes 45 seconds remaining after a Morgan Torggler goal.
It was Torggler’s fifth and final goal of the game, a game-high.
“We had to be mentally tough and know that we were still in the game,” Torggler said. “That’s exactly what we did. We’re mentally tough because of [the team death], so we were just thinking that we had to play for her and play for the team.”
Leonardtown managed to tie it at 12 less than 40 seconds later on a Rachel Ferrara goal, but Severna Park’s Ryan Bathra scored the eventual game-winner with just more than two minutes remaining.
Severna Park, the defending state champions, and head coach Carin Peterson will return to the state tournament after Wednesday’s victory.
“It’s unbelievable right now because they have been through a lot,” Peterson said. “To just stick with [it] and to be down four goals and to realize that they still had a chance was fantastic. We made a few adjustments in the second half on the defensive end with our keeper Rachel Vander Kolk and they seemed to work.”
Despite being on the wrong end of the 13-12 score, Leonardtown was left with a chance to tie the game when Madison Day was awarded an 8-meter shot with 10 seconds remaining.
On the first attempt, Day hit the net and seemingly tied the game, but an apparent inadvertent whistle disallowed the goal, requiring a retake.
On Day’s second chance, a foul awarded Day a third chance with 3.5 seconds remaining.
As the buzzer sounded, Day’s final attempt barely missed the goal.
“These guys are fantastic and they played with super heart,” Raiders head coach Ken McIlhenny said. “Severna Park never gave up, our girls never gave up and it was just a fantastic battle between two great teams. … The girls did a super job all season long and they played like we coached them to play today.”
McIlhenny loses nine seniors from this year’s history-making squad, including Kate Finkelston, who led the Raiders with three goals on Wednesday’s loss.
“I can keep my head held high because we came this far,” Finkelston said. “We only lost by one [goal] to the regional champions and probably the state champions. I hope they go all the way … because I know a lot of girls on that team. I am glad I got to play against them.”
Fellow senior Reese Gassie, the second of a trio of four-year varsity players, Finkelston and Loren Day (1 goal) being the third, scored two goals in Wednesday’s contest. Madison Day and Maggie Nantz each also added two goals, and Laci Bowes and Ferrara scored as well.
“It’s tough,” McIlhenny said of losing his nine seniors. “They’ve been with me four years at Leonardtown, club lacrosse and been with me in youth lacrosse, and I have been with them for a long time. It’s going to be hard. They are all going to play at the next level, and I and [the coaching staff] all wish them the best.”
On the last four years, Finkelston added, “It’s meant a lot. We’ve come a long way since my first year and from being on varsity I’ve seen this team really progress. As you can see, we almost went all the way, we almost did it and we were one goal away.”
Severna Park 13, Leonardtown 12
Severna Park 6 7
Leonardtown 9 3Goals: Severna Park (Torggler 5, Adams 3, Bathra 2, Wells 2, Holterman); Leonardtown (Finkelston 3, Nantz 2, M. Day 2, Gassie 2, Ferrara, L. Day, Bowes)
Saves: Severna Park (King, 3, Vander Kolk 4); Leonardtown (Carroll 3)