DELMAR — So what does a good lacrosse player do when one of their teammates’ has the hot hand?
“I would try to set them up for success,” Bethlehem freshman Caroline Marotta said. “It’s not about me. It’s all about the team.”
Marotta’s team won the Section II Class A championship Monday night in large part because of her willingness to dish, and Lauren Riker’s ability to score.
Riker notched three unanswered goals to close the first half, and delivered the game-winner in the second half, all after Marotta feeds, in a 6-5 victory over Shenendehowa.
“They have worked very hard all year to develop that chemistry,” Bethlehem coach Dani Blanchard said.
Riker scored the game’s final goal with 14:10 left and it stood up in what was Bethlehem’s second large-school title in three years, and 10th in program history.
“We had a lot of kids come back from two years ago,” Blanchard said of her team’s 15-12 win over Shenendehowa in the 2019 title game. “Some others with no varsity experience had to step forward.”
Marotta did that Monday in a big way with a goal early on before her feeding frenzy.
“She is only a freshman, but she is a great asset to the team,” Riker, a senior attack, said of Marotta, a midfielder. “She feeds me. I feed her.”
Riker’s three first-half goals inside the final 10 minutes gave top-seeded Bethlehem a 5-4 lead, and after Emily Speck began the second-half scoring to pull second-seeded Shenendehowa even, Riker popped in the game-winner.
Riker was also an offensive standout when Bethlehem beat Shenendehowa back on May 22 9-7 with three goals and three assists.
“They are a big rival of ours,” Riker said. “I get up for these games.”
“She is an amazing player,” Marotta said of her older teammate. “She is so reliable. Every time I’m looking for someone, she is there.”
The teams traded second-half defensive stands after Riker’s fourth goal, and with 4:45 to go, Bethlehem went into a stall mode. Shenendehowa caught a break when the Eagles lost the ball out of bounds with 1:59 to play.
“We got it back,” Shenendehowa assistant coach Jeanne Frevola said. “We had that opportunity.”
That came on a drive by Speck with 1:15 left, but her shot was deflected before it reached Eagles netminder Riley Donovan. Bethlehem regained possession, and, after chewing up the rest of the clock, left Shenendehowa winless in eight championship game appearances including a 9-8 overtime loss to Guilderland in 2017 and that two-goal loss to the Eagles in 2019.
“The girls didn’t stop,” Shenendehowa head coach Heidi Ackerley said. “It went down to the final seconds.”
Bethlehem felt Shenendehowa’s pressure late as the Eagles attempted to keep the ball at their offensive end, and the Plainsmen tried to get it back.
“It was stressful,” Marotta said of the closing minutes. “Things can go wrong — they did go wrong — but we kept our composure.”
The first half was back and forth, with Lauren Shanahan scoring first for Shenendehowa, and Avery Jones and Marotta answering for
Bethlehem. Shenendehowa went up 4-2 on consecutive goals by Kira Tucker, Payton Kisling and Sara Stalica. Riker followed with her string of goals.
“I can’t even explain it. I’m beyond happy,” Riker said after the title trophy was raised and a bunch pictures were taken of the 12-3 Eagles. “We knew it was going to be a really tight game.”
Shenendehowa goalie Clare Tucker made four of her six saves in the second half, including a stop on a free position by Jones with 8:10 left to keep it a one-goal game. Donovan had five saves for the Eagles.
Halftime: Bethlehem led 5-4. Shenendehowa scoring: Stalica 1-0, K. Tucker 1-0, Shanahan 1-2, Speck 1-0, Kisling 1-0. Bethlehem scoring: Jones 1-0, Marotta 1-4, Riker 4-0. Goalies: Shenendehowa, C. Tucker, 6 saves. Bethlehem, Donovan, 5 saves.