GAITHERSBURG – The wind swirled at John H. Harvill Stadium as the Lady Trojans of Gaithersburg High School prepared to kick off the 2019 lacrosse season against Paint Branch on March 22. Many of the girls took the field with pants and long sleeves under their uniforms in an attempt to stay warm in the chilling wind.
The extra layers didn’t seem to hinder the Trojans, however, and the squad clad in blue and gold opened its season with an emphatic 16-4 win over the Panthers.
Gaithersburg made sure Paint Branch did not have many open offensive looks as the Trojans won the face-off battle and beat the Panthers in shot attempts. Gaithersburg’s attackers kept Paint Branch goalie Alana Conner busy, and while Conner registered several saves, the relentless Trojans refused to let up the offensive attack.
Meanwhile, the rebuilding Panthers fought to get something going on offense. After graduating 10 seniors last year, the Panthers are comprised of mostly underclassmen, including two freshmen.
“I think we just need to work on playing more as a team and communicating as a unit, as whole,” said Paint Branch Head Coach Jenna Devilbiss. “It’s a building season. Our goals are to rebuild our program and be above .500.”
That rebuilding phase might just start with Paint Branch junior Cynthia Stewart. Stewart earned three of her team’s four goals and remained persistent, even when the game stretched out of reach for the Panthers.
The Trojans, on the other hand, had six different players score and five players who registered more than one goal. Gaithersburg attackers Emma Thompson and Jordan Tilton finished with a game-high four goals apiece, including a hat trick for both players in the second half.
Paint Branch took its time getting on the board to open each half, and the Trojans never relinquished their lead. Gaithersburg poured on the points and even secured a running clock on Thompson’s final goal with under five minutes left to play.
However, Gaithersburg Head Coach J Maloney said that with the number of shots the Trojans had attempted, more of them should have hit their mark.
“We seem to have a lot of chemistry right now, especially offensively, but we’re still young,” said Maloney. “We missed a lot of shots. We probably took 40 shots and we only made 16 goals; that’s a pretty poor shooting percentage. We need to be better.”
The Trojans scored six times in a three-minute span before halftime, but Paint Branch would get the final blow in the first half when Stewart came running down the right side of the field and fired in her second goal with 30 seconds left to play.
The Panthers trailed only by five to start the second period, and the game was still within reach. However, Gaithersburg took control of the offensive time of possession, and the Panthers’ only goal of the second half came courtesy of Stewart with just six minutes left to play. Gaithersburg junior goalie Alex Lam had thwarted all of Stewart’s previous second half goal attempts, while the Trojans defenders double-teamed and sometimes even triple-teamed Paint Branch’s attackers.
Even though the intense wind contributed to passing- and scoring-precision issues for both teams, the Trojans appeared unfazed by the gusts that kept flapping at their uniforms. Senior midfielder Sophie Couturier notched her third goal of the night to go along with her pair of assists.
For Gaithersburg junior defender and captain Sydney Braun, though, it’s not just about winning games.
“I think if we can work together as a team and do our best then we’ll have a successful season,” said Braun. “As long as we’re all getting better and working as a team and friends, then that’s a win in my book.”
After a triumphant season opener, the Trojans will travel to face the Rockville Rams on March 25. The Panthers will return to their home field in Burtonsville on March 27 to play against the Blake Bengals.