For the third time in four years, the Bishop England girls lacrosse team will play in the state finals, clinching a berth in Saturday’s championship game with a 9-7 win over area rival Wando on Tuesday night.
Bishop England, ranked No. 1 in the state, improved to 15-1 and will face Nation Ford in the 11 a.m. final at Chapin High School. Nation Ford, No. 2 in the state, knocked off three-time defending state champion J.L. Mann in the Upper State final on Tuesday.
Sophomore Emma Pizzo tallied four goals and senior Rachel Banton added three — all coming in the decisive second-half — to lead Bishop England to the victory. The Bishops grabbed their first lead with 1:20 to play in the first half on Pizzo’s second score and never relinquished the lead for the rest of the night.
“We have some young players out there so maybe a little nerves early on,” Bishop England coach Jeff Weiner said. “I thought we settled down in the second half. Emma was Emma, such a great player, and Banton came up big in the second half as you would hope seniors do in the big games. Good team win against a really good team. Beating Wando is important to us. It makes our season.”
Leading Wando’s effort were Morgan Mitchell (three goals), Skylar Horner (two goals) and Karly Ripple (two goals). Ripple scored less than two minutes into the contest to give Wando a quick 1-0 lead. After Pizzo tied the game, Horner gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead with 13:34 remaining in the first half.
Bishop England got a goal from Lulu McMillan and Pizzo gave the Bishops a 3-2 halftime advantage.
Banton’s first goal came four minutes into the second half. After Mitchell made it 4-3, Pizzo and Banton scored within two minutes of each other for a 6-3 lead in the sixth minute of the final period.
Mitchell and Ripple scored consecutive goals to make it 6-5, Bishop England, with 16:24 to play but Banton quickly pushed the advantage back to two with a goal 1:12 later.
Freshman Grace Ann Carlson scored Bishop England’s final goal with 7:53 remaining, giving the Bishops some breathing room at 9-6.
Weiner credited the play of freshman defender Ava Ward and goalie Molly Nierman for handling Wando’s offensive attack.
“Defense was great tonight,” Weiner said. “Ava made some huge plays for us and Molly was really solid. We did enough offensively to win but the defense was really good for us.
“We’re excited for another opportunity to play for a state championship. We haven’t won one yet but we have a chance on Saturday. I’m sure it will be a great matchup between the two best teams in the state.”