SHARON, Mass. – On Wednesday afternoon, the Sharon girls’ lacrosse program made a giant step forward, one that was promised in the preseason, when the Eagles hosted Bishop Feehan for their first ever tournament game.
Rather than just being happy with experience the playoffs for the first time, the Eagles set about pushing the Shamrocks (who beat Sharon 18-1 in the regular season), trailing by just two at halftime on their home grass (although Feehan was the higher seed, the game was played at Sharon High because of graduation preparations at McGrath Stadium).
Feehan turned things around with a 7-0 run after the break and held off a late charge to win 13-7 and advance to the second round of the Div. 1 East bracket, but after the game the Sharon players huddled together with smiles on their faces knowing that it was an impressive display and a historic moment for the program.
“I thought it made it all worth it because my other three years we kind of weren’t that good, so to finally have a little success at the end was awesome,” said senior midfielder Heather Seggelin. “I haven’t been on many winning teams at Sharon, so I think it’s worth it even if we didn’t win.”
Sharon coach Colleen Manning raved, “It’s just something that they really looked forward to and something they’ve never really experienced before, but I’m sure if you ask them they’re just thrilled to be here.
“They absolutely love playing.”
Feehan was the heavy favorite coming into the tournament game and jumped in front with a pair of early goals. Sharon would not let the game get away from it and junior Alex Rabb cut in from the left and scored the Eagles first postseason goal to slice the lead in half.
The Shamrocks answered back with three straight goals to take a 5-1 lead with 6:01 remaining in the half, forcing Manning to take a timeout. Although Feehan had pushed its lead to four, the visitors were having to work hard to get past the Sharon defense, which was crashing the middle and preventing clean looks.
Sophomore goalie Kathryn Derry made several big stops and Alexandra Miller, Amanda Kaplan, Anna Crosby, Seggelin and others combined to stymie the Shamrocks potent attack.
Sharon had struggled to create scoring opportunities for most of the half but as the clock was winding down inside two minutes, Sabrina Robbins found space in the middle to score her first. With seven seconds left in the half, Emma Eberhardt was given a chance from eight meters and put it away to close the gap to two at the break.
“It was an awesome first half,” said Manning. “I think our shooting percentage was low and their draw control is just phenomenal, but I think it was the best game I’ve ever seen them play. I really can’t ask for a better game.”
Seggelin said about the halftime team talk, “We were talking about how excited we were and how proud we were to make it this far and we wanted to keep up the aggression.
“We’re not as much of a second half team as a first half team, but I don’t know, I think we still kept it together…We finished strong, which is what matters.”
The Shamrocks stormed out of the gate to start the second half and imposed themselves on the Eagles, scoring three goals in the opening couple minutes for an 8-3 lead. Feehan extended the lead to as many as nine with seven straight goals in the second half until Robbins tallied her second of the game with 8:05 left.
“They had a lot of rebounds that they got, which I feel like we should have gotten them, but they worked so hard and we’re slowly climbing the ladder, so we’re getting there,” said Manning.
The Eagles closed the game with momentum. Rabb scored in traffic and then just seconds later off the ensuing face-off she added a third to make it 12-6. Rabb scored her fourth of the game rom eight meters and the lead was back down to five with just 1:55 on the clock.
Feehan tacked on one more before the final horn, but Seggelin was proud of the way the Eagles battled. She said, “Feehan is a really good team and last time we played them it was 18-1 and so that was a great improvement.”
Coming into the season, Manning made it clear that she had high expectations for the Eagles and that the playoffs were a legitimate goal. This was a clear change in attitude from the first 15 years of the program and Seggelin said that the team started to buy in after some early season wins.
“Before it wasn’t that serious,” she explained, “and then once we started winning, we won a couple of our first games…we beat [Attleboro] in overtime and it was so great and since then we got a lot better.”
With only two seniors on this season’s roster, the Eagles have a very bright future. Seggelin said, “I think next year will definitely be a lot better because last year we didn’t even make the playoffs and before that it wasn’t even an option.”
Manning is also hopeful that the playoff experience can lift the program to even greater achievements.
“It makes everyone happy and having fun is obviously one of the most important things,” she said. “They just keep improving. I see it in every practice.
“I’m hoping it brings more youth and more athletes and I can turn them into amazing lacrosse players.”
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.