Katie Vahle spent Tuesday evening trying to prove she belonged. With 6:59 remaining, she made a save that left little doubt.
With her Eastport-South Manor girls lacrosse team up a goal against West Babylon, Vahle recovered from a first half in which she made no saves. She made five in the second half — including the clincher — as ESM beat the host Eagles, 6-5, in Suffolk II.
Kasey Choma scored four goals, including the winner on a sidearm snipe into the upper-right corner with 8:31 to play, in a rematch of last year’s Suffolk Class B final. Choma scored the winner in that game, too.
“It was kind of just a readjustment knowing that I can play against this team and that I can stay with them,” said Vahle, a sophomore. “It’s a little bit of nerves, but you just have to shake them off and just play the game.”
West Babylon (6-2) had a 2-0 lead on goals from Kayla Downey, but Choma scored three times in a 5-1 run that spanned the final 10:05 of the first half.
Emily Heller and Lacey Downey tied the score for the Eagles on consecutive goals in the second half, but that was all against a defense that hasn’t allowed more than five goals this spring.
“It’s just a traditional man defense,” ESM coach Becky Thorn said. “A lot of our low defenders — especially Catherine Flaherty and Alex Giacolone — they’re pretty solid 1-v-1. We do trust them, but we’ll send [an extra defender] if we have to.”
Impervious to West Babylon’s speedy attack, ESM (8-0) closed shooting lanes and made things easier for Vahle, whose clinching save allowed the Sharks to chew away the final 6:59 without another West Babylon possession.
“That’s our goal, to always keep the goals under five,” Choma said. “What’s really important about that is the communication and having each other’s backs. They’ll score on us, but we’ll have each other to help us up.”
In last year’s county final — a 8-7 ESM win — Vahle split time with the former senior goalkeeper and neither made a save. This was a complete 180.
“Last year, obviously no saves,” Vahle said. “I really wanted to redeem myself and show that I can hang with everyone."