Nerves cost Lady Chiefs’ lax chance at 2-0 start
First-game jitters wound up playing enough of a factor in Saturday’s season opener for Iroquois’ girls lacrosse team, as the Lady Chiefs came up just short against Niagara Wheatfield, 13-11.
Coach Mark Dubel said that the Lady Chiefs “had a lot of difficulty passing, catching and controlling the ball in the first half” due to their first-game jitters, which also prevented Iroquois from settling into its offensive scheme and creating the time and space for the team’s shooters early in the contest. Despite what Dubel deemed “poor fundamentals” in the first half, the Lady Chiefs still managed to keep the game close until the last four minutes of the first half, when Niagara Wheatfield scored three goals to take an 8-4 advantage into the second half.
A goal off the opening draw in the second half pushed Niagara Wheatfield’s advantage to 9-4, but senior co-captain and attacker Sam Takac got the Lady Chiefs back on track with a goal a little over a minute later. Five minutes after that tally, eighth-grader Abby D’Amato scored on a free position shot in her varsity debut to pull Iroquois within three goals.
Senior attacker Molly Christie notched three consecutive goals in three minutes to close the gap to 10-9 midway through the second half, but that was as close as the Lady Chiefs would get, as the rest of the second half proved to be a back-and-forth struggle.
“Our second-half defense improved as (senior co-captain) MacKenzie Berger, (senior) Jenn Marki, (junior) Katie Seifert, (junior) Emilea Rejman and (sophomore) Hanna Nolan improved their communication and defensive slide timing,” Dubel said. “Improved goalkeeping by freshman goalkeeper Bri Malczewski in the second half also helped the team’s effort.”
Christie also had two assists to finish with a five-point night, while Takac had three assists to finish the game with four points. Senior attacker Lauren Marks and junior midfielder Ashley Peppriell each had a goal and an assist, while junior midfielder Julianna Krueger had two goals. Senior attacker/midfielder Erin Whalen and junior attacker/midfielder Kristen Brush each scored goals to close out the team’s effort.
Iroquois bounced back in another non-league tilt Monday, as the Lady Chiefs took out North Tonawanda, 9-5. The Lady Chiefs built up a 3-1 halftime lead and them doubled their goal production in the second half to earn the victory.
“I think we’ve got more speed and a much more aggressive style of play this year compared with last year’s team,” Dubel said. “The girls have improved stick skills, too, and even though there’s still room for improvement, it’s clear that we’re still already a better team than we were last year.”
Takac led the way for Iroquois with three goals and an assist, while Berger finished with two goals. Brush and sophomore midfielder Jill Walczyk (four ground balls) each added a goal and an assist.
Iroquois (1-1 overall) returned to action Tuesday against crosstown rival East Aurora, but information about that contest was not available at press time. The Lady Chiefs do not play again, however, until they host Williamsville South on Thursday, April 19.
“We had games scheduled so early — and actually got them in — that we had no chances for scrimmages, so we’ll just use these early non-league games as our way to prepare for the league games that get underway after we get back from break,” Dubel said. “With us being as young a team as we are, we’ve just got to adapt to the varsity speed of play — it’s a bigger jump than most people think. We just need to consistently stay healthy, since we have a smaller roster this year. We just have to be ready to play every game.”
(Reporter Jason Nadolinski contributed to this article.)