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Whitaker strikes again as Episcopal Academy completes sweep of Agnes Irwin

NEWTOWN SQUARE >> Stop me if you’ve heard this, lacrosse fans:

In a showdown of two of the top teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Episcopal Academy defeats Inter-Ac rival Agnes Irwin School on a late goal by freshman Devon Whitaker.

For the second time in a month, Whitaker provided the winner as the Churchwomen bounced back to beat the Owls, this time by a 10-9 margin Tuesday, giving them a sweep of their conference rivals.

Whitaker rolled the crease and made the deposit with two seconds left while a blustery wind whistled across the football field.

Episcopal Academy’s Lauren Rodio, left, defenders Agnes Irwin’s Sydney Wolfington Tuesday. Rodio and EA claimed a late 10-9 victory. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

It was dramatic, and sudden as the Churchwomen scored the last four goals to vaporize the 9-6 deficit they faced with seven minutes to play.

“This is a huge win for our program, not only this game but just in the history of EA girls lacrosse,” said junior Katie Crager, who has played varsity since eighth grade. “Ever since I’ve been here we’ve split Inter-Ac with Agnes Irwin. This is our second win against them this season so I think that’s really making a statement, setting a tone in the Inter-Ac. And it’s just something we can be so proud of as a team.”

Crager knotted the contest at 9 with 1:57 remaining on her third goal, a free position, one of eight of the restarts in the game.

Sophomore Olivia Dirks, who also scored three goals, controlled the draw on the ensuing faceoff and EA held for the last shot.

Whitaker took care of the rest.

“I was very nervous but I had to stay composed,” Whitaker said. “I had a lot of trust in my teammates. One thing didn’t work for us and we figured another way out of it.”

Coach Josie Ferri is getting used to the spectacular endings in the series as the Churchwomen score a 13-12 triumph in triple-overtime in early April.

Ferri felt she had more than enough options to take that last shot, as four different Churchwomen tallied the final four goals.

Episcopal Academy’s Katie Crager, right, tries to dodge pressure from Agnes Irwin’s Maria Pansini Tuesday. Crager recorded a hat trick in a 10-9 EA win. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“I think they felt confident that anyone on that end was going to put the ball in the back of the net,” Ferri said. “And it just happened to be Devon, and she did a good job.”

Ferri preached patience to the Churchwomen, who led just once earlier in the contest and trailed, 5-4, at the intermission. The message got through thanks to veterans like Crager.

“Our mentality as a team has really been a focus for us this season,” Crager said. “Just the mental battles versus the physical battles. And I think today was a true testament to that. We could have easily spiraled out mentally. What kept us in it was our fight and our determination and just trusting in each other. That’s what led us to a win.”

On the other side of the field, the Owls were thinking of what could have been. Or in the case of coach Jen Duckenfield, the elite multi-sport athlete at Interboro High, what should have been.

The Owls came out firing, only to be denied by goalie Helena Morrison and a sturdy EA defense. The Churchwomen could have trailed by a handful of goals in the first half had it not been for Morrison.

The Owls got four goals from Natalie Pansini and a solid game in net by Hailey Andress. They were in rhythm with the three-goal cushion when Emily Wills scored at 42:52 on a free position. Failing to score the rest of the way was partly because EA was on a tear, and partly due to some turnovers and gaffes from a squad Duckenfield knows is close, but not quite there with respect to beating the top teams. Earlier this season the Owls were on the verge of upsetting nationally ranked Ridgewood (N.J.) but lost by a goal.

“Decision making,” Duckenfield said. “We’ve had poor decision making. It cost us this game and it cost us the Ridgewood game. We didn’t need to force it. We’ve got to work on making better decisions in the moment.”

Crager and her teammates have a ritual of stenciling inspirational sayings on their wrists before games. They settled on “dominate” for this contest.

“It’s what we really want to embody on the field that day,” Crager said. “And I think we came out and there obviously were some ups and downs when we went down three but on the field, even if we weren’t dominating in our minds we knew that’s what we wanted to do. And it did translate at the end. So I think we really embodied that today.”

Dominate? Not the whole game, for sure. But it will look that way when the Churchwomen look back on the sweep of AIS.

In another Inter-Ac game:

Notre Dame 14, Germantown Academy 9 >> Maggie O’Brien scored four goals, Kelly Coyle and Makenzie Irvine three each to spark Notre Dame. Coyle had two assists, goalie Jackie Lanzalotto 5 saves.

In Catholic Academies action:

Sacred Heart 18, Nazareth Academy 14 >> Hannah Seifried scored 10 goals, Danielle Santora five to lead Sacred Heart to its second win in two days. Santora has 16 goals, Seifried 15 in those back-to-backs.

In the Catholic League:

Bonner & Prendergast 19, Bishop McDevitt 10 >> Paige Brady registered seven goals and three assists and won 11 draw controls to pace Prendie. Keeley Weiss added four goals and three assists, Lindsey Fagan three goals in support of goalie Catriona Corrigan (13 saves).

In the Del Val League:

Chichester 7, Academy Park 3 >> Maura Murray produced four goals, Hayley Fritz three to lift Chi to victory. Riley Street had two goals, Syana Flory one for Academy Park. Goalie Terae Mason contributed 17 saves.

In nonleague action:

Sun Valley 18, Collegium Charter 9 >> Makenzie McGinnis netted four goals and two assists, Abby Seasock and and Anna Brown three goals each to power the Vanguards to the triumph. Goalie Alexis Colasante stopped eight shots.

Alison Acello had four goals for Collegium Charter.

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