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Strong first half propels Charter School of Wilmington past Saint Mark’s High School in DIAA girls lacrosse: Photo gallery

The Spartans celebrate after a goal by Abby Catts (left). Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — Wilmington Charter held a seven-goal lead at halftime, and that cushion proved to be the difference in a 16-9 victory over Saint Mark’s in the first round of the DIAA girls lacrosse state tournament on May 17.

The Force, seeded eighth in the 12-team field, wasted little time in going on the offensive. They won a ground ball after the opening draw, and Elle Toth deposited her first goal of the day just 32 seconds in.

After sending one shot off the post and having a free position shot stopped by Charter goalie Katie Houston, No. 9 Saint Mark’s equalized. Abby Catts took a pass around midfield, raced ahead and scored. The tie, however, lasted just 12 seconds, as Toth scored immediately after Charter won the draw after Catts scored.

That was the beginning of a four-goal run for the Force, who took advantage of draw controls and ground ball wins. Emma Gaz scored on an 8-meter shot with 10:24 to go to stretch the lead to 5-1.

Katie Hanich picked up her first of the day on a free position shot as the teams split the next six goals, including one for the Spartans’ Moira Marcozzi as she twisted in front of the Force net with 2:17 to go in the half that made the score 8-4. But Wilmington Charter tallied three times in a 59-second span before halftime, including one from Ella Stack, who found herself all alone in front of Spartans goalie Mackenzie Fanning with 40 seconds remaining.

Hanich scored the first two goals of the second half as the Spartans tried to come back. Toth and Gaz, however, were the next to score, and the Spartans’ deficit was back at seven.

Nearly eight minutes elapsed after Gaz’s goal, but Saint Mark’s kept coming. Cat Kaminski scored on an 8-meter shot with 7:44 to go, and Catts deftly snagged a rebound and sent it in 44 seconds later. When Catts scored again with 3:43 to go, suddenly the Force lead was down to 13-9.

But Charter got possession on the next draw and did not give it up. In fact, they answered the Spartans, getting goals from Tess Gatti, Stack and Gaz in the final two minutes.

Toth finished with a game-high six goals, while Gaz had a hat trick. Houston stopped 14 shots. Charter will travel to top-seeded Cape Henlopen for a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday at noon.

Fanning made five saves. Catts had four goals and Hanich three for the Spartans, who finished the season 10-5.

All photos by Mike Lang.