Tuscarora vs Frederick Girls Lacrosse

Tuscrarora’s Rachel Nichols, left, drives down the field as Frederick’s Abby Lauterbach pursues during the second half of the Titans’ 17-11 in the Class 3A West Section II final. View and purchase sports photos at www.fnpinfocus.com.

MIDDLETOWN — In recent seasons, the Tuscarora girls lacrosse team has developed a reputation of playing to the level of its opposition.

The Titans are keenly aware of this. They say they play a lot of “50-50 games,” meaning the outcome could go either way.

On Monday evening, Tuscarora faced another 50-50 game, and, in keeping with the theme of its season, it found a way to win it.

“We have [won] every 50-50 game this year,” said Savannah Vance, the team’s senior goalie.

As a result, the Titans have now won 12 games, which is a school record for a single season, and they are heading to their first regional championship game after a 17-11 victory over crosstown-nemesis Frederick in the Class 3A West Section II final Monday at Middletown High School.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Tuscarora coach Bradley Gray said.

On Wednesday evening, the Titans (12-3) will host the 3A West championship game against defending state champion Westminster.

“We set goals,” Vance said. “So far, we have met every single one of our goals.”

The Titans wanted to win at least 10 games this season to match the previous school record. They wanted to win the Spires Division and play in the Central Maryland Conference championship game, which they did May 4 against Middletown. And they wanted to advance further than they had before in the regional tournament, toppling Frederick (7-7), the team that had knocked them out in recent seasons.

“It’s exciting. It feels really good,” said junior Abby Hampson, who plays attack and defense and takes critical draws for Tuscarora.

The Titans enjoyed a small lead against Frederick for most of the game. Then, the Cadets started winning consecutive draws and pulled even at 8-8 with 15 minutes, 14 seconds to play.

But the reason Tuscarora has been able to win all of its 50-50 games this season is because it has been able to find an extra gear when the situation has required it. And that’s what it was able to do again Monday.

The Titans moved Hampson, a big and strong player, over to take the draw, which allowed them to reclaim possession. Then, they used their speed and their passing to put the game away, scoring nine of the game’s final 12 goals.

Seniors Haley Barth and Chandler Stewart each finished with four goals for Tuscarora. Sophomore midfielder Rachel Nichols added three goals and two assists, while junior Blake Clouser had two goals and two assists.

Vance also energized the Titans with a number of point-blank saves in the second half.

“She is an eraser,” Gray said of his goalie. “We can make a mistake defensively, and she can erase that mistake by coming up with those saves.”

Wednesday’s regional final won’t be a 50-50 game for the Titans. They will be considerable underdogs against Westminster, just like they were against Middletown and Oakdale, which are the two teams that have beaten Tuscarora this season. Middletown beat the Titans twice, including a 17-4 victory in the CMC championship game.

“It’s a big step up,” Hampson said of the regional final against Westminster. “We are going to work hard, and we are going to surprise some people, I think.”

Frederick, meanwhile, was the defending 3A West Section II champion.

“The nice thing about [facing] Tuscarora is we always play competitive games,” Cadets coach Brandon Brewbaker said. “All of the girls play youth league together. They all know each other.”

Midfielder Kyla Popielaski scored four goals and assisted on one for the Cadets, while fellow senior Amanda Effland added two goals and two assists.

“I am extremely proud of this group,” Brewbaker said. “We have seven seniors, and six of them are going to play in college next year at every level, from Division I to Division III. They just work hard. We are around each other so much. It’s a great group of girls, and I am really going to miss them.”

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek

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