Young Pinelands Girls Lacrosse Squad Gives Jackson Liberty Major Scare

By DAVID BIGGY | May 01, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands’ Karianna Eagle gets set to fire in a goal during the second half of the Wildcats’ 12-11 loss to Jackson Liberty on April 27.

Little Egg Harbor — As she trotted toward the sideline at the end of the game on April 27, Quinn Moore was pumping her arms, clearly fired up and ready for more.

“I was little pumped up,” said the Pinelands Regional girls lacrosse team’s sophomore goaltender. “This game definitely should boost our morale. It could change the momentum of our program for years to come.”

The Wildcats lost, 12-11, against Shore Conference Class B South co-leader Jackson Liberty. But despite the defeat, the perspective coming out of the contest was that it was a victory, considering the way Pinelands played – battling back from several multiple-goal deficits to come up a couple goals shy of knocking off a top-notch squad.

“This was a great experience for us as a team,” said sophomore attacker Karianna Eagle, who scored all three of her goals during the final 5:47, after taking a stick to the face and being forced to sit out for several minutes during the second half. “A lot of our players are really young, so this kind of game will give us a lot of confidence. To play Jackson Liberty to a one-point game is a big improvement. I’m proud of our team and how we kept battling back.”

The fact the Wildcats (1-9) were even in the game going into the last minute was a major gain for the program, which had gone 0-16 the past two seasons and lost its first three games of this season before scoring a win over Point Pleasant Beach, also a program which has been down for several seasons now, two weeks ago. At 1-8 going into Saturday’s contest, there was no reason for anybody to believe the Wildcats had a shot to beat the 8-2 Lions.

“This was supposed to be another blowout, but what we’ve done in just the past few weeks has been remarkable,” said Moore, who came up with seven saves, most of them big ones at crucial points in the game. “Today’s game definitely changes the perspective for us. We found out we can play with the teams that are leading our division. Now, it’s our time to change things and turn it up a notch.”

Trailing 6-1 going into the last few minutes of the first half, Pinelands climbed back into the game when junior Jamilyn Hawkins scored with 2:01 to go in the half and junior Kayla Carson followed just 35 seconds later with her only goal, cutting the lead to 6-3 going into the half.

The Wildcats continued to chip away at the lead during the first 10 minutes of the second half and, following a Karlie Pomponio goal during the first minute of the half, Hawkins made it a 7-5 game when she scored from 6 yards with 12:28 left. After Liberty popped in a goal to again make it a three-goal contest, things seemed to be headed downward when Eagle took a stick to the nose as she as she attempted a shot on goal with 11:11 to go. She left the game for the next few minutes.

But Eagle’s replacement for the moment, junior Emily Kaszuba, came in off the bench and took the direct attempt following the penalty. She fired it into the lower left corner of the goal, and just under a minute later Skylar Callahan carried in from the right corner of the field and flicked in a backhanded shot to make it 8-7.

However, the Pinelands thunder that was brewing immediately was whisked away. With Eagle – the one primarily responsible for taking center draws – still on the bench trying to get the bleeding from her nose under control, the Lions won the next four draws and poured in four straight goals within 47 seconds to make it 12-7 with 8:11 left.

After Pinelands coach Paul Millar called a timeout to settle down the troops, Eagle returned to the field and from there the Wildcats took over the game, scoring four unanswered goals to again make it a one-goal game.

Using some of the field hockey skill she displayed as a defender during the fall, Eagle shoveled in a goal with 5:47 left, and almost had another 19 seconds later when she fired a shot off the right post. Nonetheless, Eagle got another shot off with 4:29 left and buried it, cutting the deficit to three, 12-9.

Just 14 seconds later, Bridget Dudas scooped up a ground ball off the draw, ran down the center of the field, split a pair of Liberty defenders and fired in a shot from 8 yards away to make it 12-10. With 2:52 to go, Eagle tossed in her third goal from 10 yards away as the Pinelands bench erupted into a frenzy.

Liberty controlled the next draw and worked the ball around the offensive zone for a minute or so, before defender Sam Kline knocked the ball out of an opposing forward’s stick and the Wildcats turned to the attack with 1:12 to go.

As the final 24 seconds ticked down, Pinelands made one last effort to equalize, and with 12 seconds left sophomore Paula Handel – who scored the Wildcats’ first goal – ran around the back of the goal and tried to deliver a short-side shot that was deflected away by a defender and picked up by another, as Liberty held on for the win. Still, the energized Wildcats celebrated while a dejected Jackson Liberty crew seemed spent.

“We definitely played our best game of the season today,” Eagle said. “We had a lot of teamwork. We passed well, did a great job with picking up ground balls, and we had a lot of cheering from the bench. We’re getting better, for sure. We just have to do a better job of controlling the draws and possessing the ball more. We have to keep working hard and playing with heart.”

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