CLAYMONT – Archmere and Polytech were neck-and-neck in the first half of their girls lacrosse quarterfinal matchup on May 18, with neither team able to establish a lead of more than a single goal. That all changed after halftime, as the Auks made some adjustments and blitzed the Panthers, winning, 18-8, under bright, blue skies in Claymont.
The second-seeded Auks advanced to the state semifinal round for the third consecutive season. This year, they will meet Padua, who defeated Tower Hill, 12-11, on the road on Saturday. The teams will meet Tuesday at a location and time to be announced.
Each team netted six goals in the opening 25 minutes, but it didn’t take long for the hosts to nearly match that total in the second half. Lindsey Nolen began the half by clanging a shot off the post, but Caroline Donovan picked up her teammate shortly thereafter, going high against Panthers keeper Carleigh Knotts less than a minute in.
“I think everyone realized that if we lose this game, we’re done. So, it was about giving it our all the last 25 minutes, pushing to make sure we could get to the next round,” Donovan said.
Donovan won the ensuing faceoff, continuing the dominance she had shown all day. Archmere quickly worked the ball down low, and Kate Olsen found paydirt from about 10 feet out. It only took another 13 seconds for the Auks to score again. This time, it was Donovan once more.
Olsen said the team made a key adjustment at the half that opened up the shooting lanes a bit.
“In the first half, we just focused on driving from the top, and sometimes from the crease, which wasn’t working as well as the clear, open cutter,” she said. “I just took advantage of that, and so did my other teammates, to cut when the defender wasn’t looking, although Poly had a great defense. We figured out a way to get to the middle and get open.”
Maura Smeader stopped an eight-meter opportunity, and the Auks started on the offensive again. Bridget McGonigle bounced one in as a penalty was called with 20 minutes on the clock. Archmere needed just 15 seconds of man-up time to strike again, as Olsen found McGonigle all alone in front of Knotts to make the score 11-6. The Auks tried to add to the lead, but Knotts came up with two outstanding saves to keep the Panthers’ deficit at five. Unfortunately for No. 7 Polytech, Knotts appeared to turn an ankle following the second of those saves, and she had to watch the rest of the game from the bench.
Mackenzie Estrada snuck a shot past Smeader at the 15:08 mark, finally snapping the Auks’ scoring run at five. But the hosts kept up the relentless pressure, scoring the next seven goals.
Meghan Reilly got the first of those. Her stick was hit as she released, but the slowed shot seemed only to fool the new goalie, Holly Rembold. Nolen connected on an eight-meter shot, and Lauren Ross took a pass from Reilly behind the Panthers’ defense to extend the advantage to 14-7.
Olsen scored the next three goals on similar plays, using the team’s new approach. The Auks set up behind the net, and Olsen found openings in the Polytech defense, accepted the pass while cutting and fired high. McGonigle came from behind the net for the final tally.
The second half was in marked contrast to the first. The Panthers kicked off the scoring on an eight-meter shot by Estrada, but Archmere quickly answered with Olsen’s first of the day. All told, each team held the lead three times in the first. Donovan scored three times in the half, including one play where she won the faceoff, drove in and scored in a matter of seconds. Estrada tied the game at six when she came from behind Smeader and sent a scoop shot past the keeper with 35 seconds left on the clock.
Smeader and Knotts both had a memorable first half. Twice, Knotts stopped Donovan from point-blank rage on eight-meter opportunities.
Olsen and Donovan each finished with five goals to lead the Auks. McGonigle had four, and Reilly added two. The Auks had a 26-15 shot advantage. Archmere (14-2) will be looking to avenge a regular-season loss to Padua; the Pandas defeated the Auks, 11-10, on May 1.
Before the result of the Padua game was known, Donovan said it didn’t matter who the semifinal opponent was.
“It’s exciting. It’s our senior season, so we want to extend it as long as we can. Our team is about making the next play, making it to the next game. It doesn’t matter who it is, we’re going to come out and play our hardest. The tournament’s a whole new ballgame,” she said.
Olsen added that the Auks are ready to advance past the semifinals, which is where the last two seasons have concluded. “We want to show the state what we’re made of, and we want to make it to the ‘chip.”
For the Panthers, Estrada and Jazmine Winfield each had three goals. Polytech finished with an 11-6 mark.
Fourth-seeded Ursuline, the other Catholic school remaining in the field, advanced to the semifinals with a 21-6 win over St. Andrew’s. The Raiders take on defending state champion and top seed Cape Henlopen.