Bishop Shanahan’s (27) Jessica Holowsko is hit in the mouth by the stick of Upper Perkiomen defender Casey Smoll (34) in the first half. The Eagles won 14-9 to advance in the District 1 Class 2A playoffs. (PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA)
DOWNINGTOWN >> With the temperature soaring into triple digits on the turf at Jack Mancini Field, the Bishop Shanahan girls’ lacrosse team survived the first round of the District 1 2A Tournament on Wednesday by keeping its collective cool.
Visiting Upper Perkiomen pulled within a goal two times early in the second half, but the fifth-seeded Eagles responded forcefully and pulled away for a 14-9 victory to advance to the second round on Saturday to face No. 4 Merion Mercy. The response was encouraging, but the overall performance wasn’t.
“We had too many turnovers,” said Shanahan head coach Laura Capuano. “We wanted to come in sharper and fine-tune things. We hoped to take the momentum of a clean, sharp game into Saturday.
“I know we can’t expect perfection, but I would have liked for us to be sharper.”
Credit also goes to the 12th-seeded Tribe, who kept it close but was never able to get a second half equalizer and then ran out of gas amid the blazing sun and oppressive heat.
“We were gassed,” said Upper Perkiomen head coach Susan Flack. “We had some tired legs. We did not play through the heat and (Shanahan) seemed to have fresher legs.”
Depth was a concern heading in for Flack, and it didn’t help when starting midfielder, Lauren Weeks, left the game early in the first half with an injury.
“From that point, we were short in our midfield,” Flack added.
“It was a bit of a shock when we came out and the turf was like 10 degrees hotter,” said Shanahan senior attacker Makenzie Staska. “I think we were a little taken aback by that. It took us a little time to get used to it.”
Now 12-7 overall, the Eagles have won six in a row but understand that in order to survive the weekend against Merion Mercy – who edged Penncrest 12-9 on Wednesday – they will have to play much better.
“A win is a win, but we played down to (Upper Perkiomen’s) level, and we can’t play like that if we want to advance in the playoffs,” said Staska, who paced Shanahan with five goals. “We can’t play like that against Merion Mercy – we won’t win.”
Clinging to an 8-7 lead midway through the second half, the Eagles seized control thanks to a 5-1 surge that started and ended with goals by Alyssa Manley, and included two others by Staska and one from Kaela Smith. Manley’s third and final tally put Shanahan comfortably ahead by five with three minutes on the clock.
“We needed that spark and we got it from Alyssa (Manley),” Staska said.
“It gave us confidence and they just started to play,” Capuano explained. “We were thinking too much and we were playing tight. So opening the lead like that made them looser.
“But we had all the confidence in the girls. We weren’t really worried. It was just a matter of time. We were just waiting for them to turn it on.”
In the opening half, the Eagles scored three straight goals to make it 4-1, but the Tribe came back to make it 5-3 at the half thanks to a pair of late goals by Hope Flack. Shanahan then upped the margin back to four after two Staska goals early in the second half, but Upper Perkiomen’s McKenzie Gebhardt scored three of her team-high four goals over the next four minutes to slice the deficit to 8-7.
“Sometimes we get in our heads, ‘oh my gosh, we are only up one, or we are down by one,’” Staska acknowledged. “That can affect your play, but ultimately, you have to get that out of your mind and just play.”
Manley scored three times and added an assist for Shanahan, while teammates Smith and Abby Cooper chipped in with two goals apiece. Flack finished with three goals and Gebhardt added a couple assists for the Tribe (9-9 overall).
“In the first half, we weren’t hustling to the ball,” Susan Flack said. “(Shanahan) wanted it more. We did better with that in the second half, but midfield turnovers cost us big-time.”
Bishop Shanahan 14, Upper Perkiomen 9
Upper Perkiomen 3 6 – 9
Bishop Shanahan 5 9 – 14
Upper Perkiomen goals: Gebhardt 4, Fox, Flack 3, Boyer.
Bishop Shanahan goals: Holowsko, A. Manley 3, Statska 5, Smith 2, Cooper 2. O’Donnell.
Goalie saves: Thompsom (UP) 9; Gorr (BS) 5.