Katie Vahle valiantly fell on her sword.
Actually, it was her stick, but Eastport-South Manor’s freshman goalie did have to go to her backup stick after breaking her primary one early in the first half, diving to make a save.
“That never happened to me before. The head of the stick just came off when I fell,” Vahle said.
Vahle was solid with both sticks, making nine saves, including three on free-position shots and one that was so spectacular even the opposing coach muttered reluctant praise from the sidelines as host Eastport South-Manor defeated Bayport-Blue Point, 9-5, Thursday in a Suffolk II game.
ESM, a Class B team, improved to 4-1, Bayport-Blue Point, a Class C team, dropped to 5-1.
“Katie was phenomenal,” Lady Sharks coach Becky Thorn said. “She’s young, she’s feisty and she’s very, very smart.”
Vahle made three big saves early, when the Phantoms buzzed the cage. The visitors looked like they were going to a 2-1 lead when Jacqueline Mason turned and fired from the doorstep. When Vahle made the sprawling save, Bayport-Blue Point coach Ryan Gick said, “That was a terrific save!”
It appeared to give the Lady Sharks a lift because they finished off the first half on a 3-0 run to grab a 5-3 lead at the break on tallies by Kasey Choma (two goals, three assists), Hannah Kenneally (two goals, one assist) and Jaime Biskup (two goals). Choma won four straight draw controls during that sequence and totaled eight.
“We were a little iffy on the draw early,” Choma said. “I didn’t win them all, but I got them during those intense times when we needed them. If you get the draw, you get the goal and you win the game. I know if we have the ball, we’ll finish.”
That’s because ESM dominated time of possession in the second half and took firm control with three goals in 2:33 early in the second half. Hope Steuerwald scored on the first of her two solo dashes from up top, Kenneally dodged from behind the cage and then fed Choma in the slot to make it 8-4.
Despite two goals by Cassidy Weeks, the Phantoms couldn’t close the deficit, primarily because of Vahle, who said she prepares for girls lacrosse’s version of the soccer penalty kick — which greatly favors the offensive player — by “trying to slow it down in my mind and look at the ball.”
Fittingly, Vahle stopped her final free-position shot in the closing seconds, before tossing her stick in the air. It did not break upon landing.