A highly-motivated group of Sacred Heart lacrosse players

The Convent of the Sacred Heart lacrosse team works on some drills during Monday's practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Convent of the Sacred Heart lacrosse team works on some drills during Monday’s practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Last week the Convent of the Sacred Heart lacrosse team reached a fork in the road at the midway point of its season.

On April 16, the Tigers took to the field against Masters School, built a 9-0 lead at the half and cruised to an 11-0 shutout. However, two days later, things didn’t go so well.

On the road against Rye Country Day School, Sacred Heart was unable to get momentum and lost a heartbreaking game to Rye, 10-9.

“It was frustrating for us,” senior Meggie Purcell said. “Rye always comes out really strong for us and we knew it was going to happen, but we let it slip away from us. What made it so frustrating was that we anticipated it and we still let it happen. I think it will turn out to be a good learning lesson for us with the games that we have coming up.”

What did Sacred Heart in against Rye was its own mistakes and that RCDS capitalized on them.

“In the second half, I think the pressure got to us,” head coach Courtney DePeter said. “That’s what we are focusing on this week, which is being able to keep our composure and handle the pressure. I think the girls got down on themselves too fast. Instead of thinking that they can win the game, they were thinking about how we are not going to lose. That totally turned everything around.”

Taylor Ryan led the way for the Tigers, tallying a team-high four goals. Allie Kenny and Colleen O’Neill each finished with two goals and one assist, while Catherine Hayden added one goal and one assist. In net, Maddie Pillari finished with nine saves.

Sacred Heart very easily could take the loss from Rye Country Day School and start a downhill spiral. However, that’s not how the Tigers operate.

“We came out after that loss with a real intense practice and pushed each other harder than ever,” DePeter said. “We are preparing ourselves for battle, so we are taking that frame of mind and always trying to play like we practice. When we go to a game, we want it the same level of intensity as we do in practice.”

“I see a fire on this team that I haven’t really seen yet this year,” O’Neill said. “We are very motivated right now and are just moving forward. A loss like we had against Rye could definitely have had us blame each other or look for someone to blame, but we don’t do that here. We are definitely building off each other and are trying to see the bigger picture instead of little things that we did wrong. We are using that loss as motivation rather than anything else.”

After Sacred Heart’s loss to Rye, DePeter and the rest of the Tigers pulled it back together and started reassessing what they want their goals to be for the rest of the season and how they’re going to achieve them.

Convent of the Sacred Heart goalie Maddie Pillari makes the save during Monday’s practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Convent of the Sacred Heart goalie Maddie Pillari makes the save during Monday’s practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“I think that game has motivated the girls on the team to work harder and to push each other in practice,” DePeter said. “We said after that game that we didn’t want to feel that way again for the rest of the season. We need to start believing in ourselves and having more confidence. We go out against teams and they are giving us their best game. We need to start doing the same and working on our consistency.”

Throughout some of the games for the Tigers this year, DePeter said, her team starts out strong in the first half and even starts the second half in grand fashion. However, in that second half, Sacred Heart has a five- to 10-minute span where it lapses, giving up a plethora of goals and not winning draws.

“Teams get the lead from us and start to pull away or they get back in the games,” DePeter said. “That’s not a good thing. We know that we have it, but have to just finish.”

Since the season has kicked off, DePeter has noticed that her lacrosse team’s chemistry has improved.

“The energy level is a lot better and everybody has come together,” DePeter said. “We have a lot of new players on the team, so I think that it took these past few weeks to really start meshing well and trusting each other. They now know that we’ve all got each other’s back.”

“I think we are at a really strong point right now,” Purcell said. “We suffered a tough loss against Rye, but we’re not letting it get us down. We are using it for motivation for our upcoming games. We are playing GA on Saturday and have a lot of important games coming up. I think we are at a really good point in our season in terms of energy. That’s the important part for us right now. We have all the skills, but we need to get the energy going and play together.”

As of press time, Sacred Heart posted an overall record of 4-3 and the team is quite eager to get the second half of the season under way.

“I think we are doing a good job and are really coming together,” Kenny said. “At the beginning I thought we started off rough and a little disconnected, but I think we are doing really well now to bring it all back together. I think that loss to Rye helped fuel us to come together as a team and bring back our composure in high-pressure situations. That’s going to help us in our game against GA and other games throughout the rest of the season.”

Although the Tigers haven’t steamrolled through the competition this season, that doesn’t mean that DePeter and the rest of the Sacred Heart lax team have lowered their expectations at all.

“Our goal is to get back to the championship game and to win it, but we need to take every game we play from here on out as a championship game,” DePeter said. “We can’t get up for big games and not so much for others. We need to get excited for all of them. We also need a win that maybe we are not supposed to win. I think that’s what is going to help us get ready for the playoffs. We have a lot of talent and it’s going to really take the girls to believe in themselves.”

Sacred Heart’s road to the Fairchester Athletic Association championship game won’t be easy. Yesterday the Tigers traveled to Hopkins for a key FAA battle. Results were unavailable at press time. On Saturday Sacred Heart will play its biggest game of the season to date, battling defending FAA champions and cross-town rival Greenwich Academy at 2.

Sacred Heart starts its week with a home game against Greens Farms Academy, the same team that upended the Tigers last year. Throw in games against Choate Rosemary Hall, Millbrook School, St. Luke’s, and Taft School, and it’s obvious that CSH will have to be on its toes the rest of the way.

“Everybody in the league is really competitive,” DePeter said. “Last year we lost to Greens Farms in the regular season and lost to GA in the championship game. We want those games back. We also play other tough FAA games and will be playing those big prep school games. We lost to Taft last year and want that back. Choate is on the road and that’s always a hard game for us. I would love to win at Choate.”

While it will be difficult to bring the FAA championship back to Sacred Heart, O’Neill believes that she’s playing on the team that can accomplish its goals.

“I see this team as a championship team,” O’Neill said. “There are some things that we need to work on and we know what we have to work on to get to that next level. With perseverance, I think we can push through and get to the next level.”

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