A late offensive explosion powered West Ranch Wildcats girls’ lacrosse to victory in Wednesday night’s league matchup at Valencia.
West Ranch won the game 15-10, but led 9-7 with less than seven minutes to go. The Wildcats (2-5, 1-0) poured in six late goals to pull away from the Vikings (3-5, 1-1), displaying a strong finish and will to win. For Cats’ head coach Leesa Chelminiak, matchups with Valencia typically come down to just that factor.
“Valencia is always a really, really interesting game,” Chelminiak said. “You never know. I’ve always said it never comes down to who is a better team. It’s about who wants it more that year. All these girls play club together and they also do high school so they all know each other. So, it makes for a lot of tension, but at the same time, at the end of the day, we’re all good friends.”
Freshman Lauren Lamb led West Ranch with five goals in her dramatic Foothill League debut.
“I feel like all of us just decided that we really, really wanted to win and we wanted to work together as a team,” Lamb said. “We knew that was the only way that we were going to even have a shot at winning this game. All of us just wanted to look for each other and we all just decided, we have to work as a team and we’re going to get this goal.”
Lamb is the new freshman phenom in the league after West Ranch twins Julia and Allison Hoffman held the title last season. Allison was just behind Lamb in the box score after her four-goal night.
The Wildcats jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the first half. Valencia wasn’t rattled and kept pushing until the first-half whistle as two late goals cut the deficit to just one goal.
Vikings junior Mehak Sachdeva took a stick to the head, earning the junior a foul shot. Sachdeva shook off the hit and drilled the shot. Valencia’s Olivia Fassino then worked the Wildcat defense, taking two laps around the West Ranch goal before finding junior Sarah Park, who netted the Vikings’ third goal of the day.
Park led Valencia with three goals.
Valencia first-year head coach Andy Steier saw his team clean up some sloppy passing and share the ball well to close out the first half.
“I think at that point, the girls were spreading it out on the attack a little bit more and looking for the open player,” Steier said. “They weren’t playing selfishly looking for the attack.”
West Ranch started cooking early in its 11-goal second half. The Cats dominated the faceoff and won the possession battle with ease. Several Wildcats got involved in the scoring frenzy thanks to some solid inside passing and consistent cutting to the goal.
Valencia’s offense sparked again on a 3-0 run. Senior Bridget Bambrick and Fassino scored their second goals of the day in the offensive spurt. Bambrick flung in two crafty underhanded shots that just rolled past West Ranch goalie Bailey Borkowski.
The Vikings were right there down 9-7 with less than seven minutes to go before the Cats poured in six late goals.
“It was teamwork,” Chelminiak said. “There’s just no other word for it other than teamwork. The girls trusted each other, they were able to move the ball, they knew when they saw an open teammate that that person was going to take care of the ball and put it in the back of the net. We may have struggled a little bit in the beginning with that, but definitely by the second half we had all our trust and teamwork down.”
Steier was still proud of his team’s defensive performance as they held down their Division 1 opponent under 10 goals for most of the game.
“I think our defense played phenomenal for the most part tonight,” Steier said. “When you have the ball as much as they did and the defense is playing defense for that long of minutes at a time, they’re gonna score eventually.”
Both teams have had an up-and-down start to the year but feel confident about where they’re at, as both teams will fight for what could be their third straight league co-championship.
“This team is really cohesive and they’re a great group,” Steier said. “They play well together. They’re close and there’s no drama with his team. It’s been an up-and-down season but we scheduled it that way. We want to schedule the hardest teams for games like this and for when we get to the playoffs so we know what to expect.”
West Ranch will host Chaminade on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. before returning to Foothill League action on Monday when the Cats host Hart at 3 p.m. Valencia will also head into non-league action, first with a home matchup against Royal on Friday at 7 p.m. before heading to Hart on Wednesday at 3 p.m.