Girls Lacrosse: Riots put up a fight, but Eagles soar in the end

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The Eagles' Eliza Palow elbows into Riot Paige Fleming, forcing her to lose control of the ball.

SOUTH PORTLAND – Windhamite Mya Mannette and South Portlander Jenna Leckie dueled on behalf of their respective squads on Monday evening, May 22, each girl hashing six goals in the course of 50 rainy minutes. The game, though, would ultimately go the Eagles’ way: The visitors narrowly edged their hosts through the first half, then inched further ahead in the downhill stretch for a 14-11 final.

Windham head coach Matt Perkins, “very pleased” with the way the game turned out, took a moment to dissect Mannette’s performance. In particular, he remarked on her getting open enough to put up the total she put up. “Spacing,” he said. “When everybody spaces out and you hit a couple dumps, then [your opponent] starts worrying about the other teammates, and all of a sudden, they can’t double anymore. I think that’s what happened.”

“Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that didn’t go our way,” said South Portland head coach Leslie Dyer. “I told the girls, ‘We worked hard. These are the games we’ve been building up toward.’ We finally have a team coming back from being ill and injured. This is the first game back that I was almost full-strength. Windham’s the top [in the North], so it’s nice to see [my girls] perform like this against that team. We’re going to have another taste of it on Thursday against Massabesic.”

The Riots put up the bout’s first point, a Kaya Backman notch just over a minute in. Windham quickly responded, however, Mannette posting her first of the night at 23:30. Leckie added one at 20:34 to keep South Portland a step out front, but Eagle Maddie Beam tied things up again three minutes later. The action see-sawed like that through the remainder of the half: Leckie contributed two more and Backman another for the Riots, and Mannette contribute two more, Beem another and Holly Spencer her first for the Eagles as Windham managed to jump ahead 6-5 at the break.

“I 100-percent believe in these girls. I think we can pull it off,” Dyer said of her team’s facing Windham and the league’s other top squads. “We just have to play smarter. We didn’t take some free positions, free shots on net. We had a couple silly shots, passing right to the goalie. But overall, I think the team came out hungry and they came out strong.”

The Eagles built on their lead through the second half, pulling ahead by as much as five. Alanna Joyce added Windham’s first in the stretch, Ashley Cummings their second and Belle Skvorak their third. Mannette then heated up once more, assembling a second hat trick in the waning 15 minutes. Spencer also struck a again for the team. 

“We just were turning the ball over so much,” Perkins said of his girls’ effort in the first half, and their adjustments for the second. “It kept ‘em in the game. We just weren’t playing smart on offense; we were throwing the ball away and not being patient and not hitting the outlet. Second half we hit the outlet and scored.”

For their part, the Riots battled admirably: Backman posted two for the team, Leckie her second hat trick and Kayla Brown one. More than one of those goals came in the last couple minutes: South Portland surged determinedly with little time left on the clock. They couldn’t, in the end, complete a comeback – Windham’s defense and their goalie, Grace Sawyer, stood too stalwart – but they assuredly did themselves proud.

“We knew their game; we knew they like to roll the crease and that they’re a run-and-gun team,” Dyer said of Windham. “So we came out prepared; I’m happy with what we did. It’s too bad we were on the other end of it. Given a second chance, I think we could come out and be on the other side of it.”

Leckie in particular looked positively ferocious on a number of her incursions into Windham territory and the resulting goals. She juked around defenders or simply bulldozed them out of the way, deftly controlled her stick with just one hand at times and showed zero fear in her pursuit of the back of the net. Dyer applauded her.

“Jenna had a good game; she normally does. She’s one of our strongest players,” Dyer said. “She’s just not afraid to go to goal; she sees sticks and she still goes to goal. That’s a skill that doesn’t come to everybody. A lot of girls are nervous. Jenna doesn’t have that. And Jenna wants to win. She has that competitive side to her. It’s taming her and getting her to peak at the right time. She’s doing really well, and I’m proud of the things she’s accomplished. She’s a leader and she makes a statement and everyone out here sees her.”

Perkins took a moment to praise a couple of his players, beyond Mannette. “I was really happy with Holly Spencer,” he said. “She stepped up and made some great plays. Eliza Palow had some great scoops off the ground that really were huge.”

Besides being an exicting back-and-forth (in wet, cold conditions, no less!) the game was a South Portland charity fundraiser. “Every dollar off the entrance was given to cancer awareness,” Dyer said. “We were having a bottle drive, the donations from the concessions are going and we also donated $300. All the money goes toward raising awareness and prevention.” The Maine Cancer Institute was the game’s beneficiary.

Windham, now 8-2 in A North, hosted Maine Girls’ Academy/Greater Portland Christian on Thursday the 25th. They close their regular schedule with a visit to Westbrook on May 30.

South Portland, now 4-6 in the South, traveled to Massabesic on the 25th. They host Noble on the 30th. 

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME

The Eagles’ Eliza Palow elbows into Riot Paige Fleming, forcing her to lose control of the ball.

Windhamite Alanna Joyce pushes past South Portlander Jenna Leckie.

Mya Mannette put up two hat tricks – six goals – in Windham’s win over South Portland on Monday.

Windham head coach Matt Perkins praise Holly Spencer’s contributions to the Eagles’ win over South Portland on Monday.

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