It was a chilly Tuesday night on George Butts Field with rain and some wind, but the play between the Homer Central girls’ lacrosse team and visiting Cortland High kept the fans excited right down to the final horn.
With 1.5 seconds to play and the score tied 8-8, Purple Tiger sophomore Grace Call had a free position opportunity. She fired a shot at the feet of Homer goalkeeper Katie Lawrence who made the save to preserve to 9-8 non-league for the Trojans in the season opener for both teams. It was Lawrence’s sixth save of the night and it denied Call her third goal.
“Grace had the upper hand on me tonight,” Lawrence said. “She scored at least two times on me and I can’t lie, I was nervous. I thought she might go top corner, but she went low. I did what I had to do. It was kind of surreal and I wasn’t sure it was over until everyone came rushing over. It was really just all reaction on the play. We do have a young team, but we are looking good. I’m excited about it.”
“It was a great win for our girls,” Homer co-coach Morgan Osborne said. “We been working on what it takes to be a strong teammate for each other and what we did tonight shows exactly that. We were strong for each other and we were willing to work for each other even when multiple goals were scored on us in a row. We knew draw control would be key in this game and our girls did a nice job with that.”
Homer held a 7-1 edge in draw controls in the first half, but it wasn’t until Mattie Riter scored off a Kloey Roos assist with six seconds left in the opening 25 minutes that the Trojans would lead 4-3 heading into the intermission. Riter scored all four Trojan goals in the half, including her third tally with 8:38 left in the half for a 3-1 lead.
Hannah Partigianoni scored her second goal of the first half with 3:48 to go and Call netted her first of two goals in the game to tie the game at 3-3 with 1:50 remaining until the break.
Cortland had a 6-5 edge in draw controls in the second half and that helped the Purple Tigers score three unanswered goals to take a 6-5 lead with 14:48 left in left in the contest. Partigianoni scored the fourth goal for Cortland and the go-ahead goal while Call netted the tying tally to make the score 5-5.
Homer called a timeout after Cortland went ahead. The Trojans regrouped and scored four straight goals in a 12-minute span to lead 9-6 with 2:16 remaining. Deede Partigianoni tied the game at 6-6. Nina Armideo would score three times to give the Trojans the three-goal cushion.
“We knew we wanted a win so we were able to get our heads back in it after the time-out,” Osborne said. “We knew what we needed to do to maintain that win. The girls played extremely hard even though it was cold. They played through it to get the win.”
“We had one of our midfielders (Lauren Swartz) out due to injury,” Cortland coach Kindra Catalano said. “She was slated to do a lot of the work in the draw circle. We tried some different bodies there and it was our first night out to figure out some of our systems. Draw controls hurt us some tonight, as did groundballs. We did start the second half transitioning the ball better in the air.
“It was a good effort by Grace Call. She made some great decisions with the ball. Morgan Tabel did a good job of picking up the pace at midfield. Liz Decker did an awesome job down the stretch. She’s up from the JVs and her stick skills and aggressiveness would get us the ball.”
Cortland scored two goals within 23 seconds to make things interesting. Decker scored off a free position with 1:09 left and Tabel found the cage with 46 seconds to go to make it a 9-8 game. The Purple Tigers kept the pressure up, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
“All of our attack really played well,” Homer co-coach Martha Nye said. “The girls are very unselfish. Everyone was looking to pass to a teammate. As a whole, I think our attack play was amazing. We worked as a team to accomplish our goals.
“Cortland came back with a lot of momentum, but we got the fire back under us and we were really ready to play much of the game. I was impressed with all the girls. Even the girls on the sidelines were always cheering their teammates on. We had a positive attitude the entire time. Everyone played with a lot of heart.”
“The weather, the piles of snow and our field not being ready does play a role,” Catalano said of her team’s first time on a full field. “We’re practicing indoors or at different venues for three weeks. It just takes time to get your systems into place and not being outside during that time does take a toll.”
“We are very young. We knew that we lost some leaders from last season and some of our heart. The younger players are grasping that and what the new norm is for such a young team. Many of them know they will be together three years and I think they will do great things. They’re just trying to figure out how they best work together.”
Homer held a final 29-25 edge in ground balls and a 12-7 advantagein draw controls. Cortland had the 18-17 edge in shots. Kelsey Gibbons made three saves for the Purple Tigers.
Homer will return to action Thursday with a non-league game against Syracuse at Nottingham High School starting at 4 p.m. with no JV game. Cortland will travel to Fulton Tuesday for its Salt City Conference Empire Division opener at 7 p.m. The JVs will square off at 5 p.m.
The Homer JVs took control in the first half and pulled away for a 13-6 victory over Cortland in the opening game for both teams. The Trojans took a 6-4 lead in the first half before scoring the first five goals of the second half to push their advantage to 11-4.
Homer was paced by Caitlin Barber with five goals and one assist and Lydia Sujkowski with four goals. Hannah Slade added two goals and one assist while Alyssa Wheeler and Lauren Walling tallied one goal each. Sydney O’Donnell handed out two assists and Tasie Fox had one assist. Sarah Sovocool recorded five saves for the Trojans.
Paige Ludwig led Cortland with four goals. Gabby Cranfield added one goal and one assist while Kayla Swartwood netted one goal. Daina Gutierrez made seven saves for the Purple Tigers.