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Mount St. Mary brings ‘home’ championship

The Mount St. Mary girls lacrosse dynasty is whole again now that the Thunder have brought the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association championship “home.”

The Mount won its ninth championship but first in three seasons Friday at Nichols’ Peek Field with an 11-8 victory over Nardin before an estimated 200. Seniors Olivia Macdonald and Catherine Meegan combined for six goals, including three of the Thunder’s final four strikes as both future college players ended their scholastic careers the way they started – as champions.

“We lost the last two but we came back and fought for it and we deserve it,” said Meegan, one of three seniors who have scored more than 100 goals for her career. “It feels good to be the one to start it back up.”

Mount St. Mary has appeared in all 12 Monsignor Martin title games since the league started sponsoring the sport. After losing the inaugural championship game to Nardin, the Thunder won the next eight only to see Sacred Heart end their reign in 2013 with an 8-6 win. Sacred Heart also won last year’s final, 10-8.

There was no stopping this edition of the Thunder, though, as Mount completed a 19-1 campaign that included a 14-0 league mark. Mount’s only loss came to a team from out of state while participating in a tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

“It’s more satisfying because its our senior year,” said Macdonald, who scored four times and was named league most valuable player for the season, of winning the championship. “Knowing how it felt not to get it, we knew we needed to win it, big time.”

On paper, this seemed to be a mismatch with the Thunder winning the regular-season meetings with Nardin by scores of 20-7 and 15-7. But with a championship on the line, the hungry Gators played perhaps their best game of the season.

Lauren Wischerath and Ali Barczak each scored twice for Nardin (10-4), which led briefly 2-1 before Macdonald scored to spark of 5-1 run to close the half. Macdonald tied off an assist by Meegan with 19:05 left in the first half. Former league MVP Elise Kreuz scored her second of the game with 6:59 left in the first half to give the Thunder the lead for good.

“They could either keep pushing or lay back,” first-year Mount coach Jenny Grimm said. “They decided to keep pushing. ... Just to keep going shows their character.”

Nardin didn’t go away. The Gators pulled within 6-4 early in the second half and after Mount pushed its advantage to 9-4, they had one more rally in them. Barczak scored twice and Zoe Pierce and Katie Walsh once to help Nardin pull within 10-8 with 4:24 left.

That’s as close as the Gators got as Grimm issued a challege to her players during a timeout.

“I told the seniors you can leave the legacy you want, a legacy of winning, or you can leave a legacy of losing,” Grimm said.

They opted to go out winners as they killed off most of the remaining time by passing the ball away from or dodging Nardin defenders until Macdonald, who will play at St. Bonaventure, capped the triumph with her 125th career goal.

“It was the best game of our season by far,” Nardin coach Kate Mayhook said. “I’m just proud of them. They played their hearts out. We should be proud with everything we did. It’s not a win, but it’s close.”

Goalie Alyssa Abendschein finished with 12 saves for the winners.

Meegan, who will attend Mercyhurst, finishes her career with 104 goals, including 42 this season. Creuz ends with 105, including 44 this year.

Those numbers are impressive but the most important one is being No. 1.

The dynasty is back.

Hear the Thunder roar.

“We just knew they could kill the time, get the win and get the title back to Mount St. Mary,” said Grimm, who was part of three championship teams as a player and now has one as a coach. “It feels great. It’s a monkey off our back. It took a lot of hard work. ... From the beginning back in March, we knew it was our year.”