By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ABSECON — Things started going a little haywire for the Holy Spirit girls lacrosse team midway through the second half of Monday’s matchup with Absegami. The visiting Braves had scored three straight goals to turn a tie game into a 10-7 lead, and Spartans’ rookie head coach Toni Roma called a timeout — where she let her team know the effort they were giving wasn’t going to cut it if Spirit wanted to come out with a win.
“Apparently, they like to be yelled at, I guess that’s what it takes,” Roma said with a laugh after the game. “Our theme of the season was just to find heart because we know we have the talent. We just haven’t had the heart and the drive to do great things, but I think we’re finally starting to put it all together.”
“We had to call a timeout. We knew something had to change with the momentum, and what we were doing wasn’t working,” said senior Sierra Armstrong. “We had to step it up and wake up.”
The upstart Spartans went on a 6-1 run following that break in the action, and showed maturity by milking the clock in the final three minutes instead of forcing shots and giving possession back to the Braves. That run helped Spirit to a 13-11, come-from-behind win that boosted the Spartans’ record to 5-7 overall and 2-5 in the Cape-Atlantic League. Holy Spirit has become a competitive program in just its third season of existence.
“It’s a new day every day with them, but I’m proud of them. I don’t know why we have to come from behind for good things to happen, but I’ll take it,” Roma said.
“We definitely were the underdogs coming into this game,” said Armstrong, who scored two goals and dished out a pair of assists. “Maybe it takes coach yelling at us to make us come back. Something we need to work on is not just playing tough the last 10 minutes, but coming out full strength the entire time. But I’m proud of what this team has done all season.”
Absegami (5-8, 5-7) took a 7-4 lead early in the second half on a goal by Caroline Kelley, but Holy Spirit then ripped off three straight goals to tie the game at 7. Addison Antonucci got Spirit within 7-5 before Jolena Cordasco netted a pair to tie it. The Braves responded with four straight goals to move out to an 11-7 lead. Alexa Burns, Cassidy McSweeney, Tiana Coleman-Malave and Lauren Houf all found the back of the net, but then Spirit clamped down on defense and started having better offensive possessions.
A goal by Armstrong tied the game, 11-11, with 7:34 remaining, and Armstrong assisted on a goal by Paxton Antonucci — Addison’s twin sister — as the Spartans took the lead for good. Addison Antonucci led the Spartans with four goals and Rebecca Turner chipped in with two.
“I love the twins, they are amazing. They come through for us whenever we need them to,” Armstrong said of the Antonucci girls, who helped lead the Holy Spirit soccer team to a berth in the state championship game this past fall.
Armstrong said she was proud of the composure the Spartans displayed when they had the lead and possession in the final few minutes.
“That’s something we had discussed during the time out was when we get ahead, we don’t necessarily have to keep forcing shots,” she said. “Having an open net and taking somebody one-on-one is definitely a temptation, but while a goal would be great, a win is more important than a goal.”
“They want to succeed. I’m doing what I can on my end to make that happen, and we’re trying to meet in the middle,” Roma said. “We’re doing an OK job of it for now. I’m proud of them. They are responding to me, and it’s been a learning process for me as well.”
Lauren Mevoli picked up the win in net with eight saves, while her counterpart, Absegami’s Radhika Pandya, finished with seven. Coleman-Malave led the Braves with three goals, while Burns, Houf and Kelley each added two.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN