Bishop England took a big early lead but had to hold off a late Wando charge in the end, taking a 9-7 victory in the girls lacrosse lower state championship match on Tuesday night.
The Bishops (17-2) advance to Saturday’s state final against two-time defending state champion J.L. Mann at 11 a.m. at Chapin High School. J.L. Mann beat Bishop England in the 2013 finals.
Isabel Burnett scored four goals, including the clincher with 1:38 left in the match, to lead the way for Bishop England. Taylor Kennington added three goals with Carolyn Roberts and Jordan Mitchell also scoring for the Bishops.
Bishop England grabbed what seemed to be a commanding 7-0 lead by halftime, effectively slowing down Wando’s high-scoring offensive attack. Wando entered the match as the state’s top-scoring team, averaging 20 goals per contest.
“Our defense was great in the first half and our goal-tending was outstanding in the first half,” said Bishop England coach Jeff Weiner. “We had a good first half offensively, but we left some things out there and it caught up with us in the second half.”
Burnett got the scoring started with a goal six minutes into the contest and Kennington followed with a goal four minutes later. Burnett made it 3-0 with a goal at the 13:57 mark and Kennington added a goal with 11:36 remaining for a 4-0 lead.
Roberts added her score less than a minute later for a 5-0 advantage. Kennington and Burnett closed out the half with goals, while goal tender Anya Cothran preserved the first half shutout with several saves.
The second half, however, was a lot of Wando and just enough Bishop England. Wando’s Casey Costello broke the scoring drought with 18:51 left in the match. Wando continued to dominate the action for the next 10 minutes, getting goals from Sophie Moore and Skylar Homer, followed by two penalty shot scores from Costello to cut the margin to 7-5 with 9:50 remaining.
Mitchell’s goal gave Bishop England an 8-5 lead with 7:44 left, but Hannah Nybo and VV Tully scored within 90 seconds of each other to bring Wando to within one at 8-7 with 3:14 to go.
Bishop England maintained control of the ball for the next two minutes with Burnett sealing the deal with her fourth score late.
“We knew Wando would come out hard in the second half. It’s the same thing every year with Wando. It’s always a one- or two-goal game,” said Weiner. “They have a great team but tonight they were second best. Our defense is outstanding and that was the difference tonight. We did not make a sub the entire game so it’s tough physically, but we held on to play another day.”
Wando lost in the state finals a year ago and was hoping to make a return trip. The Warriors finished the season with an 11-3 record, losing twice to Bishop England.
“We played so hard and did an amazing job in the second half,” said Wando coach Jessica Stralkowski. “We needed that first step, needed to win those 50-50 balls on the ground and in the air. In the first half, we didn’t do those things. We evened out those things in the second half, but it was a little late.”