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Wolfington’s milestone goal sparks Agnes Irwin comeback

Agnes Irwin’s Maria Pansini, left, gains a step on Notre Dame’s Riley Gillin, right, in the second half of the Owls’ 14-10 Inter-Ac League win over the Irish Thursday. Agnes Irwin rallied from an early three-goal deficit to get the victory. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

RADNOR >> Thursday’s game didn’t start out the way Sydney Wolfington would’ve wanted, personally or collectively in spotting Notre Dame the game’s first three goals.

But the Agnes Irwin senior has seen enough Inter-Ac lacrosse to know that things would come back around eventually. As long as she kept working, the pendulum would swing back in the Owls’ favor.

When it did, Wolfington was uniquely poised to take advantage, and historically so. The senior Penn State commit scored four goals, including the 100th of her career, and added an assist to help Agnes Irwin rally for a 14-10 win.

Agnes Irwin’s Sydney Wolfington scores late in the fist half against Notre Dame Thursday. Wolfington notched her 100th career goal, one of four markers in a 14-10 win for the Owls. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

The victory puts Agnes Irwin (15-5, 10-1 Inter-Ac) one win from a share of a league crown, likely to split the spoils after halving the season series with rival Episcopal Academy. Thursday, Wolfington played a huge role in getting them there.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t getting those open shots, which I was OK with because we came back as a team,” she said. “And then when we started getting those shots and moving around like Coach (Lauren) Wray always says, that if you create space for your teammates, that’s an assist in itself. So all of my goals were assisted because I wouldn’t have gotten any of my eight-meters if my teammates didn’t clear out for me and for me to pump it to get the shooting space.”

Wolfington scored on free-position shots at 3:17 of the first half, then again in the final minute to put Agnes Irwin up 8-5, capping a 7-1 run. She took a feed from Julianne Carey in the second half, then notched an unassisted tally at 5:48 to make it 13-8 and resolve all doubt. She also set up Emily Wills for a goal as time expired to set the final margin.

The start was a drastic departure from the last meeting, by the design of the Irish sideline. Agnes Irwin had throttled Notre Dame, 11-2, in April, and the Irish (11-7, 6-5) were eager to atone.

Hence the fast start, with Mikayla Dever scoring in the first minute, then setting up Claire Gola for a marker. When Hannah Gillespie netted at 21:23, the Irish were three goals to the good and executing their keys.

“As much as we tried to put it aside and behind us, we also wanted to keep it on our shoulders to think about and try to get revenge this game,” Dever said. “It was in the back of my mind, and I thought about it, trying to get back the ball whenever I could and I just played hard the whole game thinking about that.”

The Agnes Irwin wave eventually responded to the fast start, and it came via the circle. Maria Pansini led the way with 10 draw controls, while Natalie Pansini added four. The latter got the Owls up off the mat, setting up Kacy Hogarth’s goal, then netting from eight meters at 15:57 to make it 4-2 and launch the comeback.

Alex Hark scored twice in quick succession before Wills put Agnes Irwin ahead at 5-4. While Georgie Gorelick briefly restored matters to level terms, a Maria Pansini solo sortie to the cage put Agnes Irwin up for good at 6-5 with 7:39 to half.

PHOTO GALLERY: Notre Dame vs. Agnes Irwin

“At first, I think we started a little flustered,” Maria Pansini said. “We didn’t execute when we got the draw controls, but I think we really calmed ourselves down, and you could see how we kind of brought it back. I think winning the draw was super important, and just finishing on that and staying calm as a team.”

Natalie Pansini tallied a hat trick to go with a helper, while Hark and Wills netted two goals apiece.

Notre Dame was able to spark little pockets of resistance, but nothing sustained thanks to Agnes Irwin’s control of the ball in a more sedate second half. Kelly Coyle (three goals, two assists) set up Riley Gillin with 15 seconds left in the first, then got the Irish within 8-7 out of the break, but they got no closer.

Notre Dame’s Mikayla Dever, left, tries to avoid the check of Agnes Irwin defender Annie Hepburn in the first half of their Inter-Ac match-up Thursday. Agnes Irwin won 14-10. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“Our coach said we had to think about it as 0-0, restart, keep playing hard,” Dever said. “And we just had to keep fighting, no matter what the score was, play until the end of the game.”

Dever finished with a goal and two assists. Gorelick scored twice to go with a helper, and Maggie O’Brien paired a goal with an assist. Gola and freshman Hannah Bodnar controlled four draws each. Jackie Lanzalotto kept Notre Dame in touch with 14 saves, 10 of them after halftime, including a flurry of four straight stops in a one-goal game before Natalie Pansini blistered a shot just under the bar past her on an eight-meter.

Once they got rolling, Wolfington and company had the confidence that it would continue.

“I think it’s just everyone staying calm and collected, maybe not just me and Natalie but everyone,” Maria Pansini said. “And I think we feed off of each other. If one person is calm and doesn’t force a pass, everyone else does that. So

I think it’s just everyone looking at each other and knowing that we have to stay calm.”

In nonleague action:

Haverford 10, Merion Mercy 9 >> Reilly Morgan scored three times, including the game-winner, and Mia Ciancio added a hat trick for the Fords. Willa Hetznecker and Sydney Corcoran each tallied a goal and an assist, the latter tying the game at 9 late, and Lauren Johns turned aside 12 saves in net.

Archbishop Carroll 13, Plymouth Whitemarsh 3 >> Katie Detwiler compiled four goals and four assists, and Alex Cabahug-Almonte chipped in two and two to pace the Patriots (12-2). Amber Germer supplied three helpers and a goal, Rachel Matey grabbed six draws and Julia Dellaratta stopped seven shots.

Springfield 12, Villa Maria 10 >> Dana Carlson and Olivia Little each notched a hat trick and combined for three assists, and Olivia Pace and Julie Schickling added two goals each for the Cougars (14-3). Belle Mastropietro contributed a goal and an assist with five draw controls for Springfield in a game that was tied at half.

Barrack Hebrew 10, Delco Christian 8 >> Brooke VanEerden and Braedyn Thompson scored twice each, but the Knights came up short.

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