By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Tuesday night’s Region 4A Championship clash between Monticello and Hanover proved to be a night filled with milestones for the home standing Mustangs.
Monticello, behind a pair of individual highs and a balanced offensive attack used a big second half to cruise by the visiting Hawks 19-7 to claim the program’s first regional championship.
In the victory, senior Paige McLaughlin eclipsed 400 points for her career, finishing with a game-high seven goals and two assists. Sophomore Caleigh Smith was a huge reason for McLaughlin’s big night, as the sophomore registered a career best five assists in addition to three goals.
As happy as both McLaughlin and Smith were with their individual performances, it paled in comparison to the jubilation they along with the rest of the white-clad Mustangs felt as soon as the final buzzer sounded.
The 12-point win came nearly a year after MHS fell to Salem in the 2017 regional title game, which forced the black and gold to travel for the first round of the state tournament.
Winning the 4A regional title and hosting a state playoff game were two of the biggest goals heading into the 2018 campaign. There is still plenty of lacrosse to be played, but the Mustangs are thrilled to have this particular monkey off of their backs.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Monticello head coach Langley Sloan said. “This is something that these girls have worked so hard for for so many years. They came up just short every year, so to grab this championship and this home advantage on Friday night, it’s just huge for us.”
Monticello lead for 49 out of 50 minutes, but the Mustangs did not hit their stride offensively until the second half. MHS shot just 6-19 in the opening period and squandered a handful of chances to put the Hawks away early.
Looking to create the separation on the scoreboard, Sloan implored her team to work together in the second half, and that the rest would take care of itself.
Less than three minutes into the second half, it was crystal clear that the Mustangs got the message.
Monticello reeled off five goals in the frame’s first three minutes and Hanover never recovered. The Mustangs were 5-for-5 from the field to start the second half, and it would have been 6-6 if a goal by Meghan Walin not been waved off.
“I think we just weren’t in it mentally to begin with and our energy was low,” Smith said. “During halftime we talked it and we were like, ‘We need our energy to go up if we want to think about winning,’ so we all came together as a team and really got the energy up and it showed.”
The Mustangs shared the ball well offensively, but McGlothlin was the catalyst in Tuesday night’s triumph. McGlothlin made plays on both offense and defense, the Hawks had to account for the explosive senior wherever she was at all times on the field.
The senior finished with eight draw controls along with her seven goals and provided an energetic boost at every turn.
“Paige is a huge key in starting up our attack,” Sloan said. “She brings so much energy and knowledge to game- it’s almost unparalleled. When she’s going, it’s hard not to get going with her.”
Draw controls played a huge factor in Monticello separating itself in the second half. The Mustangs won five straight to open the period and held a 12-6 advantage in the final 25 minutes of play. Ball movement was also key for the home team, as 13 of 19 Mustang goals were assisted.
Josie Mallory had a big night for Monticello. The junior opened the scoring for the Mustangs less than 60 seconds into the game, and finished with five goals and three assists. Walin registered a hat trick and two assists of her own in the win.