MILLTOWN – St. Mark’s and Polytech played nearly 51 minutes of girls lacrosse on May 20, but the state quarterfinal matchup came down to the final 51 seconds. Facing elimination, the Spartans’ Paige Megargee tied the score in dramatic fashion with 11 seconds left in regulation, and Megargee struck again early in overtime to send fourth-seeded St. Mark’s into the semifinal round.
Afterward, the junior midfielder shed tears of joy as teammates swarmed her. “I’m so excited! I can’t breathe right now.”
St. Mark’s (14-2) was held to its its second-lowest goal total of the season, thanks mainly to Panthers goalie Shannon Stephan. The Spartans’ defesne, however, was just as stingy, as the teams turned in a fantastic performance on the back line. Polytech took a 6-5 lead with 4:24 remaining in the second half on Madilyn McKay’s third goal of the afternoon, and it appeared the fifth-seeded Panthers would hold on for the mild upset.
Polytech controlled possession for much of the next three-plus minutes after McKay scored, but the Spartans finally regained the ball with 1:01 to go. After driving upfield, however, a Panthers defender jarred the ball loose from St. Mark’s, and a violation on the Spartans meant the visitors would get the ball on a restart with 30 seconds left.
St. Mark’s was able to cause a turnover, and with time winding down, the Panthers were whistled for a violation, resulting in an eight-meter opportunity for the Spartans. Megan Noonan took the ball at the top of the arc, and when the whistle blew, she immediately passed the ball to Megargee instead of taking the shot. Megargee beat Stephan high, and the Spartans rejoiced at their new life. That was not a set play, Megargee said.
“I was just open on the goal line. I was there, and it was just ‘go for the shot,’ and I did,” she said.
Polytech send a shot just wide of Spartans goalie Katharine Giannaras with two seconds remaining, and the St. Mark’s fans let out a deep exhale.
The Panthers opened the three-minute sudden-death overtime with possession because St. Mark’s was forced to play shorthanded as a result of picking up four yellow flags during the game. The Spartans’ defense forced a turnover at midfield, and Megargee picked up the loose ball. She ran 30 or so yards to the front of the net and took the shot herself, beating Stephan low. This time, the Spartans’ celebration was much louder and more sustained.
“Normally, I’m looking for a girl to pass to because I tend to feed more than I tend to shoot,” Megargee said. “I just didn’t have a girl to pass to, and I beat my defender and I was just there for that.”
The teams played it tight all day. Polytech held a 2-1 lead through much of the first half, and Stephan kept it that way with a series of spectacular saves. Noonan sent the game into halftime knotted at two by scoring on a cutter with 10 ticks left on the clock.
Polytech took a quick two-goal lead in the second, and after Clare Estes got one back on a wraparound, Stephan got even better. She kept her team in front with two sensational saves two and a half minutes apart, including a robbery of Kendra Schweizer on a point-blank blast.
Estes finished with three goals to lead the Spartans, while Giannaras had five saves. The Spartans will meet Archmere in one semifinal, which will take place Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. St. Mark’s is the only team to have beaten the Auks this season, but, Megargee noted, that was in the season opener.
“It was a long time ago,” she said. “They’re going to want to come and get revenge on us, but I think this win is just a testament to the kind of team dynamic that we have. I think we’re ready for them.”
Stephan had 11 saves in an outstanding performance. All five of the Panthers’ losses came to teams seeded in the top six in the tournament.
In other quarterfinal action, Archmere, as noted, advanced with a 17-8 win over Padua on Saturday afternoon. Sydney Yanick led the way with four goals for the Auks, who improved to 15-1. Kate Olsen, Julia Collins and Lorin Donovan each had three. Padua finished with a record of 11-6 and the first tournament win in the program’s four-year history.
Second-seeded Ursuline also advanced to the semifinals by virtue of a 13-5 win over No. 7 Wilmington Charter, the Raiders’ second win over the Force in as many weeks. Jane Lyons led the way with four goals, while Erin O’Doherty and Brooke Schmeusser each added three. Ursuline improved to 13-2.
The Raiders will face eight-time defending state champion and the third seed, Cape Henlopen. The Vikings received five goals from Lindsey Monigle and four from Evelyn Shoop.