The St. John’s Catholic Prep girls lacrosse team’s 8-7 loss to visiting Annapolis Area Christian School on Wednesday had a familiar sting to it.
It marked the second time this season the Vikings had suffered a heartbreaking, one-goal defeat to the Eagles.
Granted, the details differed. Unlike the first down-to-the-wire loss to AACS, there was no crushing, game-winning goal in the final 10 seconds. But this setback at Chuck Foreman Field was no easier to absorb.
As Maya Graham, one of the many freshmen who have made an immediate impact for the Vikings this season, said, “It’s a tough one again.”
That’s because the Vikings led 5-2 at halftime, didn’t trail until Ksenya Dittrich scored with 4 minutes, 31 seconds left to give the Eagles an 8-7 lead and, for a brief moment, believed they had gotten the game-tying goal in the final minutes.
With her team trailing as she had the ball near the goal with under two minutes left, Graham sprung into action. After maneuvering past a couple of defenders to get out in front of the net, Graham fired a shot that got past Taylor Grollman — no easy feat on a day when the goalie made 13 saves — for an apparent goal with 1:31 remaining.
“The time was running down, and I knew that we had to get one,” Graham said. “I was looking to pass, but I saw that there was an opening, and I was going for it.”
But the goal didn’t count. It was ruled Graham, who fell on the turf as the ball she fired sailed into the net, had been fouled before completing her shot.
“I guess they called a cross-check before the shot,” second-year Vikings coach Kara Phoubandith said. “In college, that would’ve been a goal, with a simultaneous whistle. But unfortunately in high school, we don’t have those same rules. She had to shoot that shot again.”
On the ensuing free position opportunity, Graham passed to Kristina Hindle, who had already scored a team-high three goals in the game. But Hindle’s shot was deflected.
“[She] was open on the side, and I thought that would be a good opportunity,” Graham said. “We didn’t end up getting it, but it was a good look.”
The Vikings fell to 6-4. That record, not to mention close losses like Wednesday’s, is far from disastrous, especially for a team loaded with ninth-graders.
“I think right now, we’re going through those growing pains and these tight losses,” Phoubandith said. “We are led by four great seniors, but the majority of our team is freshmen.”
Even the head coach sort of qualifies as a newcomer.
”This is really my first year. We played one game last season [against Annapolis Area],” said Phoubandith, a Tuscarora High School grad whose first season at the helm of St. John’s program was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.
“And so we didn’t have a season under our belt,” the coach said. “We brought in 12 recruits, 11 of which are freshmen, and they are leading the charge, for sure.”
Graham’s been one of those contributors. Aside from getting an assist and throwing a major scare into the Eagles with her apparent goal down the stretch, she used her stick to deflect Tracy Grollman’s shot shortly before the Eagles got the go-ahead goal.
The Vikings’ top two scorers on Wednesday, Hindle and Riley Zaluski (two goals), were freshmen.
Freshman Addison Scanlon and Merryn Eaton, the Vikings’ lone senior on attack, each had one goal and one assist. Junior Megan Adams had one assist.
Phoubandith praised Scanlon and Kaylee Storm — a dogged defender — for their work in the draw circle and the defense of Tatum Coleman, Delaney Sheridan and sophomore goalie Juliana Workman as well.
Phoubandith thought tough games like Wednesday’s could provide the Vikings with learning experiences that could help them in the upcoming playoffs. And with so many young players, any learning this year could pay dividends for years to come.
“Everyone’s starting to jell,” Graham said. “So I’m glad to see where this goes as we go through the four years.”