Sacred Heart has the last word against Mount St. Mary - The Buffalo News
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Sacred Heart has the last word against Mount St. Mary

LEWISTON — Call it karma. Call it vindication. Call it whatever you’d like. Sacred Heart will call it, simply, another championship.

Eight straight seasons of Mount St. Mary’s dominance in Monsignor Martin Association girls lacrosse have given way to a new reign as the top-seeded Sharks claimed their second consecutive league title Thursday with a 10-8 win over the Thunder in the MMA finale at Niagara University.

After Sacred Heart put an end to the Mount’s impressive streak a year ago by writing the script of a memorable upset narrative, the Sharks took a more conventional approach in the rematch.

The two teams accounted for the other’s only league losses this year in a season split. They shared the title of co-champions and made quick work of their postseason opponents.

It couldn’t have been more even heading into the championship.

“We knew this game was going to be the game that breaks the tie,” Sacred Heart coach Linda Mroz said after the game. “Every year, it’s back and forth between us and Mount. Now we’re the team to beat.”

It was a game in which Sacred Heart (10-3) never trailed after a fast start led to a 7-3 advantage through the first half. And even when the Thunder (12-2) rolled out of the half and looked like they would claim yet another championship, the Sharks promptly had an answer for each attack.

Both teams traded goals at the start of the game in a back-and-forth affair. Before you knew it, the score was 3-3 and the parity seemed to take over.

But when sophomore Sarah Cilano scored to make it 4-3 with 8:43 left in the first half, the Sharks went on a run of four unanswered goals to take the momentum into halftime.

“I knew they were going to come out with fire in their eyes and their hearts on their sleeves in the second half,” Mroz said. “I keep telling the girls, day in and day out you have to play 50 minutes of lacrosse. And we played probably 42 minutes of lacrosse today and let them back into the game in the second half.”

When Catherine Meegan, Mount’s all-Catholic midfielder, finally scored to end the Sharks’ run at 1:27 into the second, the Thunder pieced together back-to-back goals to make it 8-6.

They would never get closer than two goals, despite a hat trick from Marielle Buffamonte. The Sharks kept a triple team on Meegan, holding the star to one point and keeping the Thunder offense silent.

Sacred Heart’s Katie O’Donnell and Remmi Zaepfel accounted for more than half of the Sharks’ scoring, each tallying three goals. Senior goalie Erica Dombrowski made 21 saves.

“I think that early lead really put us into a huge disadvantage,” Thunder coach Marissa Dauria said. “We really spent all our time digging ourselves out of a hole the rest of the game and we’re not a team that plays from behind a lot.”

Their second championship confirms the power shift that began with the Sharks’ run last season. It was especially gratifying for Mroz, who also coaches field hockey and ice hockey but had never coached varsity lacrosse before last season.

“Two years, two championships,” she said, moments before her players began dousing her with their water bottles. “I’ll stick with lacrosse, apparently.”

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