BOYERTOWN — The many seniors on Boyertown's girls lacrosse team have been through it all before.
They've faced a strong challenger intent on ending their decade-long dominance of the Pioneer Athletic Conference, and fallen behind early while not looking very good at all doing it.
But the Bears, led by their core group of experienced players, increased their efforts to control groundballs and draws midway through Thursday afternoon's match. They eventually ran off a string of goals and came away with another win, 14-7 over visiting Spring-Ford in a battle for first place in the Liberty Division.
Haley Wentzel scored seven goals, including the last four for the Bears (7-0, 9-0), Marie Valenti came up with a couple of big defensive plays to help the hosts overcome their early two-goal deficit, and Alicia Stratten came off the bench and dominated the midfield draws while adding a goal and three assists. Kira Gensler led the Rams (5-1, 6-2) with three goals.
"We started doing the basics again because groundballs definitely were not working for us, and draw control,' Valenti said concerning her team's play after Spring-Ford had taken early 2-0 and 3-1 leads and was still right in the game at 4-4 with seven minutes left in the first half. "As a team, we stay composed.'
Wentzel scored off a free position to bring the Bears to within 3-2 and Valenti made an interception in the defensive end and wound up with a goal at the other end to tie the score.
Then Wentzel scored off a pass from Alex O'Herrick to give the hosts their first lead of the day. Gensler tied it at 4-4. But the Rams did not score again in the half and the Bears ran off three in a row for a 7-4 advantage at the break.
Stratten came off the bench to pick up the majority of her five draw controls to help her team dominate the play for an extended period.
"She has come in in almost every game we've played,' said Boyertown coach Pam Wernersbach. "It's just to change things up because we weren't being successful. Why not try it? Alicia's a senior and we're senior-heavy. These are the kids who step up when push comes to shove, and she did.'
"I just kind of go in where ' W' (Wernersbach) needs me,' said Stratten. "She normally puts me in for draws.'
The Bears talked about controlling groundballs and draws during halftime and came out and did just that while ripping off three more unanswered goals in the first 78 seconds of the second half for a 10-4 lead.
"We just try to pick each other up, try not to get frustrated with each other,' said Stratten. "We just really needed to emphasize groundballs and we had to show we wanted it more. Once we got our momentum back, we played the way we can play.'
"Just keep up the basics and the intensity,' added Valenti, who racked up two goals and an assist, three groundballs, a draw control, two interceptions, and three caused turnovers. "We started placing a little bit better on the shots.'
"Again ... another senior,' said Wernersbach. "She (Valenti) stepped up and kind of picked our level of play up and got everyone else playing harder. We were just doing a better job of winning 50-50 balls and winning draw controls and we had a little more success at that in the second half.'
At the outset, Spring-Ford worked the ball around for the first three minutes and put three shots on goalkeeper Katie Buckwalter, who stopped all of them. The Rams scored first on a quick pass from Juliana Radzinski to Marisa Cappellett and again on a long shot by Gensler.
But after Gensler scored again to tie it at 4-4, Spring-Ford went nearly 12 minutes without another score and suffered through a drought of just one goal over a span of 30½ minutes.
"We went through a little slump,' said Ram coach Amy Short. "We started out strong. But they're a good team and they're fast and they're well-rounded. They have it everywhere on the field and our attack couldn't get through their defense.
"We were patient. We tried to work it around a little and they stepped out on us and put on a little more pressure and rattled our cages a little bit.'
The win was the 146th in a row for the 10-time defending champion Bears versus PAC-10 competition.
"We just try to play it game by game,' said Stratten. "You can only take it one game at a time.'
"Experience helps,' added Valenti. "We've been playing with each other for a long time. That's good in some ways and bad in some ways. But that helps us in the long run.'
O'Herrick played a well-rounded game with two assists, four draw controls, an interception, and a caused turnover. ... Karly Stevens scored twice for the Rams. ... Buckwalter ended up with eight saves and Spring-Ford goalkeeper Sam Walters made eight stops in the second half for a game total of 13.