By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR CITY — There were several firsts this season for the Cedar Creek girls lacrosse team. First-year coach Kelsey Lorady led her team to wins over district rivals Absegami and Oakcrest for the first time in school history, and nearly a win over Egg Harbor Township. The Pirates also made the South Jersey Group 2 tournament for the first time.
They’ll have to wait another year to have a chance at knowing what a playoff win feels like, however, thanks in large part to Sterling’s Hajah Carpenter.
Carpenter scored a game-high five goals, including all four of her team’s first-half goals, to help lead the Knights to an 11-5 win and a date with top-seeded Haddonfield in the second round. Haddonfield and fourth-seeded Delran each received byes into the quarterfinals, while No. 5 Cinnaminson upended No. 12 Oakcrest, 18-7, in the opening round. Second-seeded West Deptford and No. 3 Lower Cape May each got byes into the second round on the other side of the bracket, so the top four seeds are all still alive.
Ninth-seeded Sterling and No. 8 Cedar Creek were deadlocked, 4-4, heading into the second half, and the Pirates got some early momentum when senior Taryn Richardson netted a goal in the first minute of the second half to put Cedar Creek ahead, 5-4. But that was it for the Pirates, as the Knights regained their composure — and possession. Erin Kriebel tied the game not long after Richardson’s goal, and the Knights then ripped off six unanswered goals to salt the game away.
“This is our first playoff game, and we’re really proud of that achievement. It was a little nerve-wracking and I don’t think we really knew what to expect,” said junior Taylor Emmell, who finished with a team-high three goals. “We gave a good effort. We put up a good battle in the first half, but we got a little tired in the second half.”
“This is our fourth year, so to make the playoffs and get a home game — it’s the first playoff game in the program’s history, so we were excited about that,” Lorady added. “Obviously, we were hoping to get the win, but we kind of fell apart in the second half. We weren’t coming up with the draws, and they kind of started wasting some time (with possession), and that hurt us.”
The teams traded goals throughout much of the first half before a Carpenter tally gave the Knights a 4-3 lead. But Cedar Creek (3-10) responded, as Alexis Marker scored with just one second remaining to tie the game heading into the break.
But Sterling (6-14) began to dominate possession early in the second half and didn’t allow the Pirates to sustain any offensive threats. Courtney Heist played well between the pipes, stopping 14 shots, but she was under duress much of the second half.
Despite the loss, Lorady believes making the playoffs is a big step for a program that is in just its fourth season.
“(Lacrosse) is definitely growing out here. We’re trying to get some feeder programs going, and it’s still a young program. We’re only losing three seniors, so we have a lot of returning players for next year,” she said. “This is my first year, but I know the girls have grown so much. This is the first year they’ve beaten some teams they’ve never beaten before. We beat Absegami for the first time, Oakcrest for the first time — some established programs — so I think when you start to beat some of those more established programs is when you start to progress.”
Said Emmell, “I think we’ll be good in a few years. We only have three seniors this year, but next year we’ll have a lot of seniors. I think we have a lot of room to improve, and with a new coach, I think everyone is serious about getting better.”
The Pirates still have a pair of games yet to play, including a road matchup at Atlantic City on Wednesday.
“I told them we had a first in making the playoffs and there is always next year,” Lorady said. “The nice thing is our season isn’t done today. We still have two regular-season games to try to win, so we’re focused on that.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN