By Mike DeFabo
Times West Virginian
When the final horn sounded at East-West Stadium Thursday, the George Washington girls’ lacrosse team sprinted down the field with their sticks raised high.
One player jumped on the Patriot goalie, wrapping her arms and legs around the netminder. Meanwhile, the rest of the team engulfed the two with loud cheers.
On paper, the Patriots’ 14-9 victory over Fairmont Senior was just another “W”. But after the Polar Bears (5-2) beat the Patriots last season to advance to the state tournament, it was clear that this game meant a lot more to George Washington than just any old mid-season win.
The loud cheering and excessive celebration was motivated by redemption, a feeling the Polar Bears enjoyed earlier this week against Morgantown.
“We got beat in the state championship and we were looking for revenge against them,” said junior midfielder Maddi Craig. “I think that’s the same thing they were looking for.”
When asked if last year’s loss motivated his undefeated Patriots (7-0) in this game, George Washington coach Greg Mallory answered with a decisive, “Oh yea.”
On top of that, George Washington had never won a game at East-West Stadium.
“Ever,” Mallory said. “(Fairmont Senior coach John Cain) has an unbelievable team here. It speaks volumes for us that we’re able to come up and compete with a team like this.”
Craig, coming of a seven-goal game against Greensburg Central Catholic Wednesday, tallied five of the Polar Bears’ nine goals on the day. She used her strong, accurate shooting to capitalize on a number of free possession shots.
“I think she can easily play at the next level if she wants to do that. She’s got a heart of a lion,” said Cain. “For me she’s a shoo in for one of the best players in the state.”
Sofia Sansalone added a pair of goals. Adriana Constable and Reina Edwards tacked on a goal each.
The modest scoring output was atypical of a Polar Bear offense that has scored at will against lesser opponents in numerous games. Some of that can surely be attributed to the fact that Fairmont Senior was facing an established seventh-year team instead of some of the upstarts they’ve manhandled. But Cain also said it had to do with the team’s mindset.
The Polar Bears frequently took quick shots early in possessions instead of running a more patient style of offense. Cain used an analogy that casual lacrosse fans might understand better.
“It’s like in basketball. Instead of running down on a fast break, sometimes you want to slow the game down and work the plays in,” he said.
It goes a little further than that, though. In basketball, running out in transition can allow the offensive players to get quick baskets before the defense is set up. But the opposite is true in lacrosse, because rules require some defenders to stay on their side of the field.
“We got antsy. We didn’t play smart. We didn’t move our feet when we should have. The times that we did do it, we looked good,” Cain said. “It’s just when we didn’t, we looked terrible.”
The Polar Bears will look to turn things around when they travel to the Eastern Panhandle for games against Berkeley County and Spring Mills on Saturday.
“We just weren’t there as a team today,” Craig added. “But we’re looking to recover Saturday and have three good games.”
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.