Staples' last-minute goal lifts York Catholic girls' lacrosse past South Western
It wasn’t quite like the time when injured New York Knicks center Willis Reed came out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden before leading his team to victory in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, but it was close.
A day after not being able to walk, let alone do much of anything at practice Wednesday, York Catholic sophomore Dulaney Staples was out on the field as the Irish hosted unbeaten South Western in a York-Adams League showdown Thursday evening.
This wasn’t just a hobbled version of the YC standout, either. With two goals already under her belt, Staples took a free shot from the 8-meter line and beat South Western goalie Cam Storey with 16.2 seconds left to send the Irish to a thrilling 11-10 triumph.
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It was South Western’s first loss of the season, as the Mustangs dropped to 7-1 overall and 6-1 in the league, while York Catholic improved to 7-2 and 5-1 in the conference.
“She wasn’t even walking (Wednesday),” Irish coach Jim Mullen said. “Her ankle was hurting really bad and when I got here today, I had her in the starting lineup, but I didn’t think she was even going to play much, if any, with the way that she was moving around.”
Perhaps it was the bitter, bitter taste of a one-goal loss to Red Lion on Tuesday evening that provided the York Catholic midfielder a jolt. Maybe it was simply the adrenaline pumping pretty good on a gameday. Either way, it was clear that Staples was ready to go from the opening whistle.
The same really couldn’t be said for the Irish, as the South Western girls raced out to a 4-2 lead over the first 10 minutes of action. After a timeout, York Catholic regrouped over the final 15 minutes of the opening half with six straight tallies to go up 8-4 by the break.
After trading goals to open the second half, the Mustangs reeled off an impressive five consecutive goals to reclaim their advantage at 10-9 with 5:36 left. The Irish's tying goal came from an unlikely source, as reserve Leah Gaito stepped in for an injured Katie Bullen (three goals) and evened the score up at 10-all with 2:08 left.
“Because of injuries, we have middies playing attack,” Mullen said. “And she stepped up for us.”
After securing possession with over a minute left, the Irish went on the attack late. The ball found its way to Staples with 30 seconds left and she raced toward the right of the goal with time winding down. After faking a shot, Staples dodged towards the 8-meter line where she was fouled with 19.8 seconds to play.
“They fouled the wrong girl,” Mullen said with a smile.
The York Catholic coach was correct, as Staples took four steps toward Storey before lofting a shot just above the Mustang goalie’s net for the game-winner.
“It was really nerve-racking,” Staples said. “But you just have to play your game and you have to pretend like you’re the only one out there.”
Staples wasn’t, but there was little the Mustangs could do to stop her.
“It just felt amazing,” a smiling Staples said. “It felt so good.”
So, too, did the ankle injury that has been nagging her for the better part of the last week.
“I sprained the ankle last week,” Staples said. “So I’ve just been resting and preparing for this game all week. The energy today (at school) was great and everyone was just really positive. We all came into this game ready.”
The setback was sickening for the South Western girls, who only a week ago rallied back from a two-goal deficit to upend rival Susquehannock. Storey made a big save at the buzzer to preserve the victory then, but she was bested by one of York Catholic's top snipers.
“We didn’t shoot well in the first half,” Mustangs coach Randy Kavanaugh said. “We shot 4-for-17. If we shot, like, 50 percent, we’re not coming down to the end like this. Now their goalie (Amanda Reed) did a great job — a lot of great saves by her — but we just have to shoot better.”
The silver lining for Kavanaugh is that his team will have no time to dwell over Thursday’s defeat, as the Mustangs are back in action Friday against Mechanicsburg.
“I think we may have been a little too complacent after that big win (against Susquehannock),” Kavanaugh said. “We didn’t play well against West York (Tuesday) and didn’t shoot well today. We just have to play better.”
Bullen, who seemed to be OK after taking a blow to the head late in the second half, and Staples tallied three goals each for York Catholic, while Anna Seufert added a pair and Sarah Perry notched six assists in the victory. Leah Leonard finished with five goals — three of which came in the second half — and Lexi Plesic finished with two for South Western.