Green Hope’s Lilly Stanley dripped perspiration with exhaustion, but at the same time the senior girls lacrosse player smiled ear to ear with satisfaction.
She and her teammates enjoy feeling their program has returned to normal as the unranked Falcons upset The News & Observer area’s No. 10 Athens Drive 10-6 Tuesday night at Green Hope’s field.
“We came out strong in the first half,” said Stanley of the Falcons’ 7-1 halftime lead. “We were focused; we weren’t sloppy; we were hitting our passes. We really played well as a team.”
A year ago, the Falcons (4-2, 4-1) were rocked by the dismissal of their head coach on the eve the season opener and then struggled with an interim coach with no lacrosse background. But by midseason, Ryan Rotanz took over the program and she is now in her first full season coaching the team.
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“Last year was such a mess,” Stanley said. “With Ryan, everything is running smoothly. She’s a great coach. She’s always looking out for us. We don’t have any issues on this team. We go to practice, we work hard and we know we have to work on the next day.”
Added Green Hope senior goalie Lauren Vuytecki: “She’s a godsend.”
What worked: Green Hope’s fast start left Vuytecki with little to do in the first half. After junior Quincy Smith scored just 1:07 into the match, the Falcons soon bumped their lead to 5-1 less than 10 minutes into the first half.
In the 25-minute first half, at least 15-plus minutes were played with action at one end of the field as Green Hope attacked Athens Drive (3-3, 3-3). There was one five-minute-plus stretch when the ball never crossed midfield back toward Vuytecki. She may have appeared a bored spectator, but her eyes were focused behind her helmet and faceguard.
“I keep my head in the game by staying focused on the ball,” she said. “I watch the ball the entire time. I never look away.”
Vuytecki explained Stanley gave her a tip to keep her on the ball to help her cope with her competitive nature.
“I’m much calmer and more focused on this field this year,” she said.
Needs improvement: Athens Drive coach Emily Smith hopes to build on the second-half comeback as the Jaguars outscored Green Hope 5-3.
“I told the girls a loss can be motivation, and it’s all about perspective,” Smith said. “You can let a loss tear you down or you can use it to build you back up. We’re going to work harder and keep going. We’re looking forward to the next game.”
Putting up numbers: Stanley led Green Hope with four goals, scoring two in each half. Smith added three goals and one each was tallied by freshman Alicia Brunetti, junior Allie Winiecki and junior Maddie McKinley.
For Athens Drive, senior team captain Madeline Bromley scored four goals and junior Erin Kennedy added two.