“Whenever we play them it’s always going to be a battle to the death just because we’re such competitive schools,” Menlo’s Maggie Brown said. “We know coming into this game it’s always going to be hard because there’s that competitive drive.”
Early on, Friday’s girls lacrosse showdown between Menlo School and crosstown rival Menlo-Atherton looked like a mismatch. By the end of the soggy afternoon battle at M-A, the visiting Knights had escaped with a 12-11 win to stay undefeated in the West Bay Athletic League Foothill Division.
Four players accounted for the majority of the scoring, with Brown netting a game-high six goals.
Menlo’s Madi Shove scored the first of her five goals 10 seconds after the opening whistle. Brown scored her first 18 seconds later. And 95 seconds into the game, Shove found the back of the net again for an early three-goal lead.
“We really talked about getting the draws, and once that happened we were able to work off the transition,” Brown said.
In search of an answer, M-A (10-7, 7-3 WBAL) turned to Alex Fanelli. The senior attacker who missed three weeks with a knee injury, this being her third game back, scored the first three goals for the Bears.
The deficit had been shaved to 4-3 midway through the first half, as M-A served notice that it would not be pushed around.
“Playing at a higher level of game, the refs let you be a little more aggressive,” Fanelli said. “You don’t get called for pushing
— well, you do sometimes — but you get to play all out. It’s really so much more fun.
“And we really need these games to test our skills,” Fanelli said. “It brings us to play at a higher level.”
After Shove and Brown scored to extend the Menlo lead back up to three goals with a little more than five minutes left before halftime, M-A’s Casey Burnett retaliated with back-to-back tallies, the last with 46 seconds to go.
“Casey is an amazing player,” Fanelli said. “Me, her, Adrian (Holland) and Kendall (Eder), we all run the plays together and we have that connection that makes it go, ‘Boom, boom, in!'”
Fanelli tied the game at 6 in the opening minute of the second half, but it took almost 10 minutes for the Bears to score again.
Meanwhile, Shove gave Menlo (13-4, 10-0) the lead back with her only goal of the second half and a minute later hit a streaking Brown with a short assist. Playing with an injured finger on her right hand, Brown showed great anticipation as she often disrupted the M-A rush at midfield and found seams while attacking, scoring again in the 34th minute to put Menlo ahead 9-6 — once again a three-goal edge.
“The kid is tough,” Menlo coach Jen Lee said of Brown. “I always tell them, ‘You have to play to the whistle,’ and she does that. She’s mentally tough and she’s physically tough for a small-sized player. Great things come in small packages.
“They also come in bigger packages, ala Madi Shove lighting it up out there. They’re a very dynamic duo.”
Refusing to go away, the Bears made it 9-8 on another pair of quick scores by Burnett, the second assisted by Fanelli from behind the cage.
Every time the Knights attempted to pull away — like in the 37th minute when Deborah Wohl stole the ball at midfield and passed to Ginny Miller, who picked up an assist on Brown’s third goal of the second half — the Bears almost instantly reclaimed momentum. (Like in the 40th minute, when Eder became a fresh name on the scoring sheet.)
Wohl became the third Menlo player to score when she made a run from midfield and bounced the ball in for a 11-9 lead in the final five minutes. Then, with M-A threatening, Brown stole the ball with 2 1/2 minutes remaining before getting tackled to the ground.
“I don’t really take tackles personally because I know people are just going for the ball and they just kind of tend to miss — and I know I do it sometimes, too,” said Brown, who turned the steal into a goal with 1:35 left for another three-goal lead.
“I really want to see this team be undefeated, so I was personally motivated to get a goal,” Brown said.
True to form, M-A didn’t quit and scored with 31 seconds left (Fanelli) and again with 5 seconds to go (Holland). But time ran out on the upset bid as the Bears walked off behind the bleachers for the postgame speech from their coach.
“He said he was really proud of us, which means a lot to our team,” Fanelli said. “Usually it’s, ‘You guys did good, but we need to do this and we need to do this.’ And today we gave it our all and he was really proud. We were really proud.”