By dominating the final 16 minutes of the first half, Naples Barron Collier eliminated the Saint Stephen’s girls lacrosse team from the state championship chase with a 15-5 victory in Tuesday’s FHSAA second-round play-in game at the Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Fields.
Junior Emily Browne broke a scoreless deadlock and the Cougars scored seven more unanswered goals to take an 8-0 lead into halftime. Senior Jo Imbriani scored the second and fourth goals of the game en route to scoring four in the match, while classmate Jaclyn Berry scored two of her game-best five goals in the decisive first half.
Although his team improved to 19-1 and moved into Friday’s third-round play-in game against either Vero Beach or Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin, Barron Collier head coach Robert Chomo felt his team was challenged by a Saint Stephen’s squad that won its second consecutive district championship and went 14-5 this spring.
The Falcons forced Barron Collier junior goalie Ema Chomo to make 19 saves.
“(The Falcons) are well-coached and athletic,” Chomo said. “They had three or four players who worked really well together with a lot of give-and-go. Our defense was coming off (the field) saying that they were moving the ball well, so we had to have our heads on a swivel and help out on defense. They’re very athletic and they kept shooting the ball at us. They didn’t play the scoreboard. They played until the final whistle and they kept coming at us.”
A little over two minutes into the second half, junior Baylee Barker got Saint Stephen’s on the scoreboard, making it 8-1. Barker and sophomore Kendall Miller each finished with two goals; junior Merry Moore scored with 12:06 to cut Barron Collier’s lead to nine at 12-3.
Saint Stephen’s will say goodbye to three seniors instrumental in getting the fledgling program off the ground in Kristyn Weaver, Grace Barnes and Emily Hiebner. However, the performance of its underclassmen this season and its second-half performance on Tuesday are possible barometers of continued success.
“That second half made all the difference,” said Saint Stephen’s head coach LeeAnn Fronckowiak. “They didn’t fold up and give up. I didn’t have girls crying. They didn’t start yelling at each other, and they didn’t discombobulate. They weren’t their own worst enemy, and it only makes for a brighter future moving forward.”