That darn ACT exam had the Hawken School girls lacrosse team going from three straight wins to three straight losses during a home battle against Revere on Friday and a pair of tournament games Saturday in Columbus.
Sustaining minimal losses to graduation from last year’s 8-12 campaign that concluded in the Division II regional semifinals, the veteran Lady Hawks churned out decisive victories against Lake Catholic, 12-6, Gilmour Academy, 17-2, and Western Reserve Academy, 13-3, to start their campaign at 3-1 under seventh-year head coach Jim Newman.
Their lone loss was a 16-9 affair against reigning state runner-up Chagrin Falls in a season opener April 2, when the Hawken girls actually won the second half behind the triple-threat scoring of sophomore midfielder Heather Arslanian and senior captains Ari Cohen and Sydney Kates, while junior midfielder Julia Newman is a team leader in assists.
“One of the high points, for sure, is Heather Arslanian,” coach Newman said of his sophomore standout. “She’s sort of tenacious in going to the goal, which is really great, and is able to dodge. She’s a good finisher around the net. She has good stick control. She’s able to score successfully in pretty tight situations.”
But without Cohen, Newman and starting junior defender Tess Namy, who were busy preparing and taking the ACT exam, the Lady Hawks lost three games in two days, first against Revere, 14-8, and then against the Columbus School for Girls and Bishop Watterson during the Hannigan Galipault Tournament on Saturday at Thomas Worthington High School on the north side of Columbus.
Hawken’s record dropped to 3-4.
“Sadly for us over the weekend, and actually the game against Revere, we were missing a bunch of kids for the ACT test,” coach Newman said. “That was part of what happened. We just didn’t have the full team. So, we went down to Columbus with five JV players really playing most of the game. So, that was a little tough.”
The Lady Hawks have nine returning starters from a year ago, but missing two main pieces on the draw circle and for scoring opportunities, as well as a key component on defense, proved too much to overcome.
In the game against Revere (7-2), Cohen’s absence on the draw circle wing was an Achilles heel, as the Lady Minutemen commanded an 11-5 lead at intermission, mostly behind senior midfielder Jordan Zablo’s eight-goal performance.
“The sad part for us in that game is that, if we had had Ari Cohen, who wins a lot on the draw and who plays great on offense and is a spiritual part of the team, I think that it probably would have been a different game,” coach Newman said. “And losing by six isn’t bad, but it would have been even tighter, for sure.”
And then without returning starter Namy on defense, the Lady Hawks’ zone was a little off that game, he said.
The Lady Hawks still had senior defender Hannah Arslanian and senior goalie Sadie Jacobson, both four-year varsity players, as well as sophomore veteran defender Katie Gretter and junior Maddy Eippert, earning a starting spot this year, but Namy’s absence changed the composition of Hawken’s zone.
“What we’ve been working on all season was a little bit off,” coach Newman said. “And Revere is a strong team. They had a well-put-together offense, and we had to adjust to it and actually started to play man-to-man defense a little bit more as the game went on.
“Revere has a particular play where they would hand the ball off to someone behind the net, that player would then cut up really hard around the crease, and they would just feed it over the top. So, our zone couldn’t react quick enough.”
After surrendering 11 goals in the first half, Hawken played Revere even, 3-3, the rest of the way.
With a well-conditioned veteran midfield unit of Kates, Newman and the younger Arslanian, who never come off the field, the Lady Hawks are suited for some second-half battles, despite their short bench.
“The most important thing for me is that the girls have a lot of heart,” coach Newman said. “They play hard all the time and are good spirited. So, I think that that’s been sort of a hallmark of Hawken’s lacrosse program for while, that even when we play these hard teams we don’t give up.”
But against Bishop Watterson (6-2) on Saturday, the Lady Hawks managed to hold their own during a 3-3 horn locking in the early goings, but then the Lady Eagles went on to take command of the game with five unanswered goals before intermission, mostly behind the seven-goal, two-assist performance of freshman Zoe Coleman.
The result was a 16-6 loss for the Lady Hawks.
Jacobson made seven saves against Watterson, but the Lady Eagles continued to draw shooting-space calls against Hawken’s zone and take advantage of free-position opportunities.
“This isn’t to be overcritical of the referees, but they just started to call shooting space when our girls were there,” coach Newman said. “And it was a training group of referees. So, ultimately, what happened was just that they gave them a lot of free-position shots that made a difference and took some air out of our balloon.
“Our kids were working hard and doing what they should have been, and then it’s that interpretation of shooting space that gave them free shots on goal, and that’s where they converted.”
While the Lady Hawks’ nucleus of midfielders Kates, Newman and Arslanian and attacker Ari Cohen account for the majority of their team’s draw controls and scoring opportunities, senior attacker Natalie Cohen has stepped up her role as a second-year starter after being a goalie her freshman year.
Also, sophomore Lindsay Milbourn has assumed a starting spot at attack, after being sidelined by an injury last year, and sophomore Lauren Wiertel has provided options as a starting attacker who can also fill in and play defense with Hawken’s missing parts as of late.
“Lauren’s been pretty versatile for us, depending on the situation,” coach Newman said. “So, she’s started in different spots with where we need her to fill in. She’s just a kid who hustles all over the place and really tries hard.”
Back to full strength on Tuesday evening, the Lady Hawks returned to the win column by going on the road to defeat region foe Laurel School, 13-12, in double overtime. Hawken erased a 9-3 halftime deficit, as midfielder Newman netted the game-winning goal.
Up next, Hawken will host Shaker Heights at 7 p.m. Thursday in Chester Township.