WASHINGTON, Ill. — O’Fallon coach Rob Garrison said he hasn’t seen anything like Lincoln-Way Central’s aggression, and despite numerous chances to exploit it, the Panthers couldn’t capitalize.
Lincoln-Way Central dropped the Panthers 13-7 to win the Washington Sectional girls lacrosse title.
“They were an incredibly fast team and had a couple of really phenomenal shooters and it was tough to shut that down,” Garrison said. “Once we started to figure that out, I feel like (the Knights) got a little frustrated and got aggressive.
“When the other team gets five yellow cards and they’re playing that aggressive, it’s difficult to respond. Our girls tried our best and they played with class and I’m super proud of them.”
The Panthers (14-2) controlled the tempo after conceding a goal 32 seconds into the game. Senior Olivia Branz scored her first of three goals by answering two minutes later to even the game.
But O’Fallon found itself down 5-1 as the Knights used a blitzkrieg attack to score four goals in a 2-minute, 55-second span.
“We weren’t expecting it, especially coming out of a win with them last year,” Branz said. “It’s definitely a lot different than what we’re used to against St. Louis teams, but it was at our tempo and at our pace, it was just a little rougher than usual. I don’t think it was anything that we couldn’t handle.”
Garrison used a timeout to slow down the game, which allowed the Panthers to pull within 5-2 before another Lincoln-Way Central quick strike extended the lead to 8-2 with 7:34 left in the first half.
Two of the three goals were scored by Erika Ho, who found the net five times on Friday. Her quickness and side-to-side mobility kept the defense on their toes as she knifed her way into great attacking position.
“I had no idea where she was going,” O’Fallon goalie Jess Camp said. “I’ve never seen anybody like her. She was really good.”
Branz and Maddie Dalonzo, who scored a team-high four goals, each scored in the first 3:08 of the second half to pull within 9-6 but that was as close as the Panthers would get. The Knights scored four goals in the final 21 minutes, including two goals in 71 seconds to answer and build an 11-6 lead.
“Once we were down it was hard to get back up,” Branz said. “We’re typically a second-half team, but today it was just not our day, I guess.”
Through it all, the Panthers stayed together and held their heads high walking off the field.
“I think something I love about our program is that we always value character more than anything else and I think that really showed today,” Camp said.