GENEVA — The William Smith lacrosse team is now playing with the type of potent offense and suffocating defense that the program has prided itself on for years.
The Herons (6-3, 6-2) have but one game remaining in their regular season following their weekend sweep of Rochester Institute of Technology capped off by a 12-8 victory on Boswell Field on Saturday.
The meeting was the final regular-season Liberty League contest for the Herons and thus it was Senior Day. Head coach Anne Phillips inserted every senior into the starting lineup, and they certainly played like it could be their final game at home.
Senior Ellie Burns registered three goals and an assist for four points and her first hat trick since last season’s win over Nazareth. Seniors Kelsey Williams and Geneva-native Sadie Mapstone also found the back of the net for the Herons, who outshot the Tigers 45-14.
“We just wanted to play for each other, especially this year,” Burns said. “The only time we get to spend together as a senior class is on the field, so it’s something that I definitely brought with me today.”
“Statistically in a lot of areas we dominated RIT with caused turnovers and ground balls,” Coach Phillips said. The Herons caused a staggering 25 turnovers, tying a school record and owned a 32-12 ground ball advantage. “We’re just fortunate that we played hard, shot well enough; I think our ride was pretty difficult for RIT to clear the ball and especially in the second half when they got tired, we took possession of the ball a lot, so I think that was the difference in the game.”
While RIT struggled to keep up with the Herons on both ends, the Tigers’ goalie Paulina Goodermote played a stellar game between the pipes. Goodermote registered seven saves in the first 11 minutes of the game and while William Smith did manage to put one past her early, it was RIT that took a 2-1 lead 13 minutes in.
Sophomore Maddie Montgomery continued to do what she does best and tied the score with her 27th of the season followed by a coach’s dream goal scored by Mapstone.
After senior Mikayla Montgomery forced a turnover, Mapstone picked up the ground ball and sprinted past half field into the Tigers’ end. Mapstone then executed a picture-perfect give-and-go with fellow senior Burns that ended with Mapstone finding the back of the net to give the Herons the lead back.
A play started, executed and finished exclusively by seniors gave William Smith the first half boost to take over.
“It was my first fully-recruited class here at William Smith and it’s probably always going to be one of my favorite classes,” Phillips said of the seniors. “They’re just great students, they’re great players, they’re great leaders, they’re great people and I really have enjoyed coaching them.”
Burns and Montgomery quickly answered an RIT goal and the Herons led 5-3 at the half.
Sophomore Molly Davis, who also registered a hat trick, had a goal disallowed for a goal-circle violation to start the second half and RIT scored soon after. Leading 5-4, the Herons scored the next three goals to give themselves a comfortable lead.
Credit to RIT, the Tigers may not have created an abundance of offense, but when they did get in William Smith’s end, their offensive chances were not wasted. Alanna Fallone, one of the premier scorers in the country, scored her 46th goal of the season followed by another quick strike from Kayleigh Ground to cut the Herons’ lead back down to two at 8-6.
Led by the seniors, the Herons kept themselves composed and scored three out of the final four goals of the game to hang on for their fourth straight win.
“I think the importance that we continued to work hard the entirety of the game. That’s something that we’ve been focusing on: not getting into big slumps,” senior Ellie Burns said of closing out. “We played with a lot of heart today.”
A big challenge lie ahead of the Herons next week in Brockport. The good news is that it is just one game instead of the usual back-to-back weekend sets that have been physically demanding.
“It’s kind of trained us mentally to come back on the second day and to still make the smart decisions and adjust,” Burns said. “That will be, honestly, beneficial going forward. I think we’re definitely going to be more ready than ever.”
As of now, the Herons’ postseason has yet to be confirmed, but they sit firmly in second place behind Ithaca and are playing their best lacrosse of the season.