Ranked sixth at the end of the regular season in the Missouri state polls, the OTHS girls lacrosse team traveled to Chicagoland last weekend to compete in the Illinois state tournament. Coach Rob Garrison’s squad split a two-game set in the tourney hosted by St. Francis High School, winning the opener over Nazareth before being eliminated by Hindsdale Central, ranked third in Illinois.
Prior to their state tourney appearance, the Lady Panthers finished regular season play with another split, collecting a victory in their Senior Night game over Webster Groves before losing their finale to Marquette.
OTHS 16 Webster Groves 9
In the Webster Groves contest, the O’Fallon girls gutted out a 16-9 victory but the win came at a high price as two standout performers — Georgie Gaab and Jen Greene — suffered season-ending concussions during the game. The OTHS girls opened the contest with a dominating offensive performance, jumping to a 9-2 first half advantage. Ten minutes into the second stanza, Gaab went down after having scored four goals and added an assist. Green’s injury followed as Webster Groves resorted to strong-arm tactics in order to scramble back into contention.
“Our girls played extremely well in the first half with our full complement of players,” Garrison said. “Webster Groves came out in the second half trying to disrupt our attack with physical strength. Fortunately, after taking a few hits, our team recovered enough to hold onto the victory.”
Marquette 12 OTHS 8
Without the services of both Gaab and Greene, the Lady Panthers opened their regular season finale against Marquette tentatively, and they paid for it, falling behind 4-0 early in the first half. Despite three goals and an assist by senior Taylor Grout and three goals by Lizzie Bellina, the Panthers never recovered from Marquette’s early scoring blitzing, dropping the contest 12-8.
“We struggled to compensate for the loss of Gaab and Green,” Garrison said. “Sam Winkelman played an outstanding game for us defensively, and we had a number of other girls step up – particularly in the second half – but the loss was a disappointing end to the regular season. It was one of those games that was winnable, but we failed to rally.”
The O’Fallon girls had no trouble returning to form in their first state tournament appearance against Nazareth, blasting their way to a 19-0 victory. The Panthers’ corps of talented underclassmen carried the day with the help of senior Taylor Grout’s three goal effort. Freshman Maddie Dalonzo scored twice and was a major factor in O’Fallon’s dominance in the draws, winning 19 of the 20 face-offs. Sophomore Mikayla Trujillo contributed three goals and two assists, and sophomore Olivia Branz added three goals as the Panthers overwhelmed Nazareth.
“Our bench came up huge for us,” Garrison said. “We knew going in that we would need additional scoring to compensate for the loss of Gaab and Green, and our girls responded.”
Moving into the second round, the O’Fallon girls faced a much more difficult challenge against Hindsdale Central — the type of match up that Garrison has come to expect when playing in the Illinois state series.
“Since our program has improved to the point of qualifying for the state tournament, we have been bracketed with one of the top teams in the state in the second round every year,” Garrison explained. “Even though our record and ranking in the Missouri polls might indicate a higher seed, it just never happens. With Hindsdale Central, we faced another level of good. Next year, we expect things to change as the Illinois High School Association will make girls’ lacrosse a sanctioned sport and will handle the seeding moving forward.”
Going into the contest, Hindsdale Central was a 15-goal favorite; however, the Panthers beat the spread, losing to the Chicago powerhouse 17-5. Top scorers for O’Fallon were Olivia Branz with two goals and Taylor Grout with one goal and two assists.
“Despite the loss to Hindsdale Central, the future of our program looks bright,” said Garrison. “Our team was primarily made up of underclassmen, all of whom showed a lot of talent and enthusiasm. I enjoyed working with our seniors this year. They were an outstanding group, and it is hard to see them go, but, at the same time, with lacrosse becoming an IHSA-sanctioned sport next spring and with the number of returning players in the program, I see nothing but positives for future seasons.”