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Mount St. Mary to meet Sacred Heart again for MMAA girls lacrosse title

In a rematch both teams have anticipated all season, Mount St. Mary and Sacred Heart will face off for the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association girls lacrosse championship.

This time, there will be a bit more at stake — a berth in the inaugural state Catholic playoffs.

“All season long we’ve been training for this game,” said Carley Smith, a senior captain for defending champion Sacred Heart. “We’re ready for it and we are ready to go to states.”

Regular season champion Mount St. Mary and runner-up Sacred Heart advanced to Tuesday night’s MMAA title game at Canisius College with semifinal victories on the Desmke Sports Complex turf Saturday.

The Thunder opened up a close contest with fourth-seeded St. Mary’s late in the first half and went on to win 17-10. The Sharks swarmed No. 3 seed Buffalo Seminary from start to finish during a 13-1 triumph.

Mount St. Mary is seeking its 11th league championship in its 16th final appearance. Sacred Heart won its third title and first since 2014 last year with a 4-3 upset of Mount St. Mary, which came into the game unbeaten in league play with two regular season wins over Sacred Heart.

The Thunder went 10-0 against MMAA teams again this spring, winning 12-8 at Sacred Heart on April 15 and 11-9 in Thursday’s regular season finale.

Those two wins, however, only served as a prelude for the postseason rematch Mount St. Mary has been looking forward to all year.

“From the very first week of tryouts, we’ve talked about it,” Thunder coach Paige Printup said. “Even before that, we talked about it all summer. We haven’t lived it down, yet, that’s for sure.”

The Sharks believe they can repeat last year’s feat of rising to the occasion in the third meeting after coming up short during the regular season.

“It gives us confidence that last year we were in the same situation, losing twice and then finishing on top,” Sacred Heart sophomore Kayleigh Colleary said.

As was the case last year, Thunder star Lois Garlow poses an imposing threat to the Sharks’ title hopes. Garlow, the MMAA Player of the Year, scored nine goals in Saturday’s semifinal, bringing her career tally to 210 goals, 115 this season. She had 10 goals and six assists in the two wins against the Sharks.

In the title game last year, Sacred Heart’s aggressive double-teaming defense limited Garlow to just one goal. The Sharks have an updated counterattack for their final matchup, coach Kristina Geschwender said.

“We were working on something new the other day and I joked with the girls that I haven’t used all my tricks yet,” Geschwender said. “You have to save something for the playoffs.”

Printup said the Thunder were too predictable in last year’s championship game and worked on adding new wrinkles throughout the season that they have saved for Tuesday’s game.

“We’ve changed how we are doing a lot of stuff,” Printup said. “They are going to know our top players and who to double, who to mark-up on. We need to slow it down and not always give the ball to the same person. We have plans for it.”

With the championship game on the horizon, the Thunder lacked focus and energy at the start of their semifinal game, Printup acknowledged.

St. Mary’s sophomore Jill Bernas scored the fifth of her eight goals to tie the game at 6-6 with 5:37 left in the first half. Garlow led a surge with an extra attacker that gave Mount St. Mary a 9-6 cushion at halftime and the Thunder controlled the game the rest of the way.

“We weren’t playing to the best of our ability and came in maybe a little complacent,” Garlow said. “We just had to slow it down, play our game and have confidence in ourselves.

“That was one of our worst games we’ve played. We got that out of the way and Tuesday will be our best game.”

Sacred Heart, on the other hand, opened the playoffs with one of its best performances, Geschwender said. The Sharks opened a 4-0 lead in the opening minutes, went ahead 10-0 by halftime and didn’t let down its guard until the final horn.

“We played a full 50 minutes, which is something we haven’t had happen yet,” Geschwender said. “I feel good about where we are. the girls really want that rematch and we were looking forward to that. States has been our goal all season long and we are one step closer to that.”

The winner of Tuesday’s MMAA championship game will advance to the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association semifinals on Saturday at Holy Trinity on Long Island.

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