During these past two seasons, Sacred Heart Prep has enjoyed an unparalleled streak of success against its next-door neighbor. Last season, the Gators defeated Menlo for the first time in school history, defeated them again in the WBAL championship game, and earlier this season, secured a three-game winning streak against the Knights with a one-goal home win.
After Friday afternoon's match, Sacred Heart Prep can add another accomplishment to its growing resume against Menlo.
Freshman Cameron Gordon scored the game-winning goal with seven seconds left to lift the visiting Gators to a thrilling 16-15 victory, clinching at least a share of the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) regular-season title.
"I'm really proud of my team for keeping their composure and pulling through today," Sacred Heart head coach Kate Hourigan said.
Senior Caroline Cummings led Sacred Heart Prep (8-0, 14-5) with six goals and two assists, while sophomore Libby Muir contributed four second-half goals. Junior goalkeeper Natalie Palmer also played a fantastic game in the net for the Gators, totaling 14 saves on the day.
"Natalie anchored our whole team," Hourigan said. "Coming up with those saves and setting the town down there defensively . . . she was really the backbone of our team today."
The Knights (6-2, 13-5) were led by a trio of underclassmen, as freshman midfielder Sophia Donovan scored six goals, and sophomore Parvathi Narayan and freshman Indie Varma each had three goals.
Sacred Heart Prep led by one goal at halftime, and was up by as many as four goals in the second half before Menlo rallied late to nearly pull off an improbable comeback.
With four minutes remaining in the contest, the Knights scored three consecutive goals, including two by Donavan, in just over a minute to turn a 15-11 disadvantage into a one-goal game.
"We were definitely a little nervous on the sideline," Hourigan said. "Lacrosse is a unique sport. Whoever scores, the other team doesn't get possession. It's a fifty-fifty ball. "
After Narayan's potential game-tying goal was saved by Palmer, Sacred Heart Prep attempted to run out the clock, but Menlo senior defender Alyssa Sherman stole the ball for the Knights, and Donovan went the length of the field to score her third consecutive goal and tie the game up with 35 seconds left.
"A comeback like that is so hard to do, and I give them all the credit in the world to dig that deep," Menlo head coach Jen Lee said of her team's effort at the end of the game. "At the end of the day, it's not going to be what we're telling them to do, it's what they are able to do together on the field."
On the next Knights' possession, with a chance to attempt a game-winning shot, Donavan lost the ball as she ran toward the Gators' goal, and the ball remained loose on the ground for an extended period of time with both teams frantically attempting to gain control.
Finally, Gordon secured the ball near the Menlo goal and, with no defenders in front of her, calmly made the game-winning shot.
"I heard people calling for the ball as I was going for the goal, but I knew I could just take it," Gordon said.
Despite only being a freshman, Gordon's heroics were no surprise to her teammates, who had seen her deliver against Menlo in a different sport earlier this year. In the CCS Division III soccer championship game against Menlo, Gordon scored an overtime goal for Sacred Heart Prep in a game that ended in 1-1 tie.
"That's now two clutch goals for her," Cummings said. "Knowing it was Cam, I knew she would make that goal."
Although the teams do not square off again in the regular season, they will likely meet again during the WBAL playoffs at some point -- probably in the title match.
Although Lee said she is not looking that far ahead, she felt her kids would be up to the challenge if a potential third game did arise.
"Our kids will be more motivated and inspired than ever," Lee said.
Hourigan said her team made a few tactical adjustments after facing Menlo on April 3, and felt some additional adjustments would be needed to defeat Menlo for an unprecedented third time this season.
"We still have some things we're saving in the event that we see them again," Hourigan said.
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