By Nelson Coffin
Shannon Smith did a little bit of everything on Tuesday while helping Roland Park Country School to its fourth straight A Conference triumph, a 13-11 decision over Archbishop Spalding, to open the 2019 campaign.
The junior midfielder scored twice and handed out three assists, grabbed a slew of draws and generally had another banner day to keep the Reds unbeaten in league play with Gerstell Academy looming on Thursday.
Smith, who scored the game-winner in overtime to take down St. Paul’s School for Girls last week, got plenty of help from standout senior Kiki Shaw’s five-goal afternoon.
And senior goalie Amber Bustard showed her stuff early in the game when she snuffed a couple of would-be goals by the Cavs, who were led by senior midfielder Tori Bates’ stellar four-goal, one-assist effort.
Considering that Spalding (4-2, 1-2 A Conference) had not given up more than eight goals in any of their first five games, Roland Park had to feel good about its offensive prowess.
“We were looking up quickly and finding each other,” said Smith, a UNC lacrosse commit. “That’s the kind of mindset we have this year,”
The Reds jumped out to a 3-0 advantage on goals by junior attacker Katie Novotny, junior midfielder Peyton Woodward and Shaw and maintained at least a two-goal bulge throughout the contest.
While Bustard was frustrating the Cavs’ shooters, her teammates were building as much as a five-goal lead in the second half against Spalding senior goalie Paige Gunning.
That outburst came after the Cavs cut the deficit to 8-6 early in the final period on goals by sophomore Abby Scully and junior Kristin O’Neill.
Roland Park’s decisive 4-1 mid-period run was fueled on goals by Shaw and Woodward before Scully countered for Spalding, followed by back-to-back tallies by senior Adele Spencer and Smith.
Trailing, 12-7, the Cavs responded with a 4-1 run of their own that featured three goals by Bates and one with just under a minute remaining in regulation by senior attacker Maria Comella to make it close.
The Reds’ scoring concluded when Shaw finished a fast break on a nice feed from Becca Sturtz.
When Smith grabbed the crucial draw after Comella’s goal, the Reds were able to play keep-away to secure the victory.
“We were too far behind when we really started to get going,” Spalding coach Tara Shea. “We just got ourselves in too big of a hole.”
In what was a frustrating setback for the Cavs, they produced enough shots to stay in — or possibly win — the game, but couldn’t quite get enough of them past Bustard.
“A lot of times it comes down to shot selection,” Shea said. “And we didn’t always take the best ones.”
Credit, Roland Park’s defense as well for forcing turnovers or errant shots at crucial times.
First-year Roland Park coach Meg Miller said that she is carrying on some of the things that were already in place under her predecessor, Kim McNemar.
“I’m just bringing in some of those things more to the forefront,” she said. “We’re taking it game by game and just trying to improve every day.”