By Nelson Coffin
Roland Park Country School’s lacrosse team had no problem catching Notre Dame Prep on in an A Conference showdown Tuesday afternoon.
After all, the Reds tied the score five different times in the contest, yet were unable to ever take the lead against the defending A Conference champs even once.
Conversely, the Blazers were able to withstand every Reds’ charge while securing a gritty 9-7 victory to maintain a perfect record in conference play.
NDP, which built a 5-3 edge at the half on two goals by sophomore attacker Nancy Halloran and one each by senior attacker Lila Knott and senior midfielders Brooke Barger and Ellie Curry, was denied several chances to expand its advantage because of the quick reactions of senior goalie Amber Bustard, who turned away several point-blank opportunities early in the final period.
Those stops gave Roland Park (7-3, 6-2 conference) enough possessions to eventually draw even with 17 minutes remaining in regulation when senior Adele Spencer converted a pass from Becca Sturtz.
Less than two minutes later, however, NDP (9-2, 7-0) went back on top, 6-5, when sophomore midfielder Kailey Pelkey coaxed a free-position shot past Bustard.
The Reds responded in kind with 10 minutes left on a goal by senior midfielder Peyton Woodward assisted by junior midfielder Shannon Smith.
Just as they had all game, the Blazers answered in short order when sophomore attacker Halley Koras rifled in a shot from Bustard’s right for the goal that would put them ahead to stay.
NDP added to it narrow margin when Pelkey fed senior attacker Natalie O’Connor to make it 8-6 with 7:37 to go, although the Reds shaved the deficit in half quickly when senior midfielder Kiki Shaw found Lily Insley inside with 6:10 remaining.
Curry’s second goal, assisted by Barger three minutes later, sealed the deal for the Blazers, who are out to defend their reputation as the top team in the league.
“There’s a lot of pressure, because we have a target on our backs this year,” she said. “But we want to show that we’re as good as last year’s team.”
With a young and improving defense, spearheaded by freshman Olivia Rockstroh, that held the Reds to four goals under their seasonal average, NDP could be poised for another title run.
“We put in 110 percent effort,” said Rochschal, who praised junior goalie Helen Stafford for her standout play. “And we communicate really well on the field.”
NDP coach Mac Ford said that the Blazers’ offense is trying to “catch up the the defense.”
To that end, Pehlke said that she had better success shooting low on Bustard, who made things difficult for the Blazers throughout the contest.
“Amber is a tremendous asset for our team,” RPCS coach Meg Miller said. “We were never out of the game, and we played hard to the final whistle.”