Senior night was a success for the Upper Perk girls lacrosse squad thanks in large measure to the only two seniors on the young team. Kayla Smith and Maddie Fox stepped up and played integral roles in the Tribe's 10-5 victory over Pope John Paul on Monday night at Upper Perk.
The victory virtually assures a final four PAC-10 playoff berth for the Tribe (6-6, 8-9) under first-year head coach Sue Flack, who has reaped the benefits of the leadership of her two co-captains.
"Both of them together in the mid-field are a big presence," said Flack. "They bring a lot of poise and possession and speed through the midfield. That's a nice asset to have."
Smith tallied three times against PJP (3-7), giving her 29 for the season and 106 for her career. She helped turn the game in the Tribe's favor with her blinding speed after Upper Perk got off to a slow start.
It only took the visitors 21 seconds to take the lead on a goal by the shifty and speedy Lillia Walls, and less than a minute later, Smith picked up a yellow card and had to sit out two minutes.
But shortly after re-entering play, Smith scored from about seven yards out to knot the score at one.
Pope John Paul still had the better of territorial play, Tribe goalie Regan McComb was busy, and the visitors grabbed the lead again on another score by Walls.
"We knew that we just needed to possess and calm down, and we knew that we would eventually break them down," Smith said
It was a youngster, freshman Kenzie Gebhardt, who tied the game for the Tribe. She tracked down a loose ball at midfield, and with wide open spaces to the goal, got off a close-in shot, gathered in the rebound, circled the goal and beat netminder Jackie Bowes, who was brilliant while facing 31 shots.
Smith ramped up her game and gave the Tribe the lead for good after a restart with 3:24 left in the half.
Smith then fed Aubrey Wilcox all alone on the doorstep for a slam dunk goal and a 4-2 lead 91 seconds later.
Twenty-seven seconds after Wilcox's goal, Fox assisted Liv Vogel for goal No. 5.
Grace Dawson got one score back for the Golden Panthers to make it 5-3 at intermission.
"It was a little nerve wracking to be only up by two, but I think we just came out and really came together as a team," Fox said.
Pope John Paul kept the game close for a while in the second half, but Morgan Rynn, Smith, Fox, and Wilcox scored the last four goals of the game as the Tribe won going away.
"You just got to keep it up," Flack noted. "That was the difference. Last game we played them (a 6-5 loss), we outshot them, but they weren't going in, and this time they finished it and they put them in."
Another factor in the victory was the solid goalkeeping of sophomore McComb who made 14 saves, many of them when the game was up for grabs in the first half and early in the second.
"Regan played phenomenal," said Flack. "She has been stepping up all season."
Smith reached the milestone 100th goal of her career last week against Pottstown in a 10-8 win.
"I really had no idea that I was this close until the middle of the season. I didn't want to really know how much I had left," Smith recounted. "I was really surprised when everyone was screaming when I scored at Pottstown. But it feels good."
Flack has seen her team mature and continue to battle despite four tough, one-goal losses in the middle of the season.
"I'm really happy with where the team is at and how we have progressed through the season," she said. "We've actually had some close games that we've now won. They're being poised and confident in their abilities, so that's a big improvement from the beginning of the season."