By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Though her team scored a lot of goals in Thursday’s regional semifinal against Hanover, it was a defensive play in the first half that sent Monticello girls’ lacrosse head coach Langley Sloan into a frenzy on the sidelines.
The Mustangs had scored back-to-back goals at that point in the game, but the Hawks had answered every MHS run up until that very moment.
As Sloan had predicted, however, all it took was one save to rattle the visitors from Hanover.
With 6:53 remaining in the opening half, junior goalie Sarah Frances Krebs turned back the explosive Hawk offense at the point of attack, which drew widespread cheers across the the home sideline.
After that, Hanover’s offense wasn’t heard from again.
Monticello held the Hawks scoreless for the final 36 minutes of play in the Mustangs’ 19-6 rout.
With the win, Monticello clinches a berth in the state tournament and a spot in a local-on-local region final against Western Albemarle.
Monticello held a modest 7-6 lead with 11:08 left in the first half, before the Mustangs reeled off the final 12 goals of the game on heels of Krebs’ stop.
“It felt awesome to get that initial save,” Frances said. “I felt kind of slow at the beginning…. After I got that first save, I just said, ‘I know I have this, I just gotta keep going.’”
The Monticello defense fed off of Frances’ big play inside of the cage. Freshman midfielder Alison Swartout, who finished with three goals, intercepted a pass near the goal to end a promising Hanover possession in the closing minutes of the opening period.
The Hawks rarely possessed the ball in the second half, thanks to Monticello’s dominant play in the midfield and an impressive effort from both Frances and Ariana Nixon inside the net.
“The big thing was that we were playing defense on both ends of the field,” Sloan said. “Our offense was causing a bunch of turnovers, making our defense not have to do as much, but I would argue that we have one of the best defenses in the state. I’ve said that at the beginning of the year and they work hard.”
Swartout timely pickoff led to Caleigh Smith’s first goal of the night on the other end. Smith later added a free position score with eight seconds left the first half.
Smith and fellow, dynamic midfielder JosieMallory each matched and set new personal milestones on Thursday night.
Mallory scored a career-best, seven goals, and matched her career-high eight points. The senior was a one-woman wrecking crew out of the gate in the second, half, reeling off two goals in the period’s first 90 seconds.
For the second time in her career against these same Hanover Hawks, Smith dished out a career-high five assists. The junior tallied eight goals last season against Hanover in the 2018 regional title game.
Smith and Mallory were marked by Hawks every time that they touched the ball, but the two midfielders got plenty of help on offense. Five different Mustangs accounted for the first six goals of the evening.
“One thing that we’ve been working on in practice is getting open off of those picks and those cuts, and just working hard, trusting each other, and that’s what we did tonight. I think that’s why we had so much production down there,” Sloan said.
Up next for Monticello is a date with archrival Western Albemarle in the regional semifinals on Tuesday night. The Mustangs and Warriors met twice this season, with both games decided by a combined three goals.
Western topped Monticello 10-9 back on May 7 in Crozet, but the rubber match will take place on the Mustangs’ home turf.
“They’re really well coached and a really good team, and it’s always a great matchup between the two of, so I’m excited that we’re home for it,” Sloan said.