West Forsyth’s boys lacrosse team was ahead late in the third quarter on Tuesday night, and they were playing just well enough to stay there.
Facing Woodstock in a tightly contested second round matchup, any mistake on either side could prove costly. The Wolverines held a slim lead throughout the first half and throughout most of the game, but it never grew more than two goals.
Late in the third quarter, West was up just one, and needed one of those plays to break their way to help themselves to a more comfortable edge. Senior Dylan Hollenbeck saw an opportunity with 4:35 left in the third, as he saw the white ball flying high through the air.
“Their defender that was throwing the ball got hit really bad,” Hollenbeck said. “I just saw it and was like, “‘Dang, I can intercept this.’”
Situated in front of the goal, Hollenbeck leaped up and reached for the ball with his stick, and in the same motion, he scored his second goal of the night to give his team a two-score lead. It ultimately helped spark West’s late surge, which gave them a 10-5 victory to secure a place in the Class 7A quarterfinals.
“We played pretty good team defense,” West boys coach John Laden said. “We ride really well. We executed on the offensive end in the fourth quarter when we had to.”
Hollenbeck opened the scoring with 10:04 left in the first quarter, but Woodstock took their only lead with two straight goals to follow that up. West’s Chris Neal tied it up at 2-2 seven minutes later, and after a long score from Sam Tuck, the Wolverines went into the second with a 3-2 advantage.
Both teams exchanged scores to start the second quarter, before a loose ball went into Woodstock’s goal to make it 5-3. West went into halftime up 5-4, and began to exercise more patience and passed around more on the offensive side. After Hollenbeck’s leaping score, West lead 8-5 to end the third. West’s Logan Schell was solid in goal late, while the offense put the game away.
“We've been playing well lately,” Laden said. “We have a lot of seniors and I'm proud of the leadership they've shown. They whole team deserves this. It's very exciting.”
West Forsyth girls 16, Allatoona 4
West’s girls matchup with the Buccaneers on Tuesday was briefly competitive at the outset, but the Wolverines scored nine straight goals to end the second half, which was more than enough to take a blowout 16-4 win.
Maddie Houlberg and Savannah Sabol quickly put West ahead 2-0 in the game’s first two minutes, but the Bucanneers tied it with two quick goals of their own.
It was the closest Allatoona came to making a game of it. Houlberg scored her second goal with 18:51 left in the first half, which began West’s 10-0 scoring run that lasted until the second half. The Wolverines were winning almost every draw, and taking advantage of them.
“We're a very good run and gun team, so if we get out in space, it's very hard to stop us,” West girls coach Chris Keifer said. “We can run up and down the field with the best of them. When we get in a set offense is where we're a little more sloppy. If we win the draw, we usually win the game.”
Houlberg, Jenna Burrow, and Cami Merkel paced the Wolverines during their scoring run, which gave them an 11-2 lead at halftime. In the midst of the mostly uncompetitive game, Merkel made history when she broke the school record for points in a season by scoring her 87th goal with 3:46 left in the first half. The score put the sophomore past Taylor Hagin, who set West’s previous record back in 2010.
“She's just an unbelievable player,” Keifer said. “She’s probably going to be the best player to come out of West and she's only a sophomore. She's one in a million.”
Although the score was lopsided, the Wolverines certainly don’t feel like Tuesday’s win was perfect. Still, with their talented young core, they feel like they can be in good shape if they can make those adjustments.
“It wasn't exactly the win we wanted but we still came out on top,” Merkel said. “We still have to fix some of the small things for the Elite Eight, but I'm really proud of everyone.”