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GIRLS LACROSSE: Balanced Cedar Crest holds off West York, 15-13

LEBANON>> For a game that yielded only three lead changes, the last of which registered not a dozen minutes in, Saturday's girls lacrosse clash at Earl Boltz Stadium was as back-and-forth as they come. And Cedar Crest, though bruised and shorthanded, still managed to lead West York over the day's final 38:45 due to one reason: composure.

With two senior starters hampered by injury, the young Falcons held off the Bulldogs, 15-13, by calmly answering their every goal in a physical second half. Captain Alex Rich netted four first-half scores and exited at 16:29 to go following a collision, which allowed Abbey Castor to pick up the slack with Nikki Wagner and Kayla Sanger (eight combined goals). Ahead by one with less than eight minutes left, Cedar Crest (4-5) deposited two goals to West York's one, and Lexi Eberly spearheaded a close-out effort from the Falcons defense to wrap up the victory.

"Everybody knew we just had to focus, be effective and make smart passes," Eberly said. "We also took the smart shots. And then we fought hard until the end."

The Bulldogs (2-5) rode out to an early edge on the back of two goals from captain Ally Williams, who missed a free-position try at 49 ticks remaining that would've cut her team's deficit to one. Williams' misfire proved to be the best shot at sparking a West York comeback, as Eberly and co. stifled ensuing attempts on goal and eventually reclaimed possession.

"It was definitely an evenly-matched game as far as skill," Cedar Crest coach Emma Lebo said. "So we were focused on maintaining good fundamentals and possession of the ball, not forcing things and bouncing back after goals scored upon. I really think today that they worked well together, didn't get down on themselves and were composed and relaxed."

Williams' three goals were only matched by the four from Bulldogs center Kelly Dietz, who last struck nylon at 10:15 to go, drawing her team within one. Her score was soon nullified by tallies from Falcon juniors Madison Barron and Abby Rowe, as well as sophomore Cailie Bernard. Cedar Crest had been able to keep continuous possession through draw controls won by a cast of different players, including Castor and Sanger. Set up by an intercetion in the midfield, the duo also helped run off two full minutes of late clock that squeezed West York into a decisively tight spot. "We've had a lot of really close games this year, where it's back and forth and our goal is always to finish those game," Lebo said. "We needed to be the one dictating the play of the game and being in control. And that was our focus going into this game; being in control."

Bulldogs coach Rachel Klado, an advocate of a slower-paced, drawn out attack, shared she was forced into an entirely new gameplan down two for the final 55 seconds. Additionally, had West York been able to control play earlier as the Falcons had, it might've been in a much improved situation down the stretch.

"When we had long possessions, we weren't capitalizing. We needed to make a couple more goals after possessions," Klado said. "I thought we played well. We just didn't finish enough plays."

Bound by their shared jersey No. 20, Rich and Williams finished nearly every chance they had in the first half, often trading isolation-set goals. After dropping hard to the turf post-intermission, Rich was held out for the remainder of the game as a precaution despite passing initial concussions test. She had sat out the last portion of her basketball season due to a concussion and missed earlier lacrosse games following a hit to the head sustained against Warwick.

"When Alex got hurt it made me a little nervous, but I knew we could do it," Castor said. "We were really aggressive today and it really helped us out ... this should build us up."

Wagner, hobbled by a strained MCL, still managed a pair of critical goals early in the second half when called on by Lebo for some immediate offense. Cedar Crest goalie Serena Rodriguez posted nine saves.

Cedar Crest 15, West York 13

West York76—13Cedar Crest96—15

Goals— CC: Alex Rich 4, Abbey Castor 3, Nikki Wagner 3, Kayla Sanger 2, Madison Barron, Cailie Bernard, Abby Rowe. WY: Kelly Dietz 4, Ally Williams 3, Amanda Lehman 2, Sami Gentzler 2, Thamina Peti.

Assists— CC: Rich, Sanger, Bernard, Avery Stoddard. WY: Lakyn Brenneman.

Shots on goal— CC: 27, WY: 22.

Goalies— CC: Serena Rodriguez (9 saves). WY: Tori Gross (12).