BROOKFIELD — The Bethel’s girls lacrosse team took its share of lumps in the first couple weeks of the season as its players learned to trust one another and work together.
If Saturday’s game was any indication, things are beginning to fall into place.
Playing in unison, the Wildcats recorded a 12-9 victory over Brookfield in a back-and-forth, non-conference clash.
“This absolutely was a team win for us,” said Bethel coach Shelly Rinas, whose team had lost four of its first five games. “We’ve had a rough start to our season and a couple of tough losses. Today could be that turning point for us, where we spent the first few games learning from a lot of mistakes. We’re going to get better as the season goes on, and I think today was a great representation of the kind of game we can play. I’m very proud.”
Vicky Gracy, Christiana Ruiz, Maranda Nyborg and Samantha Barnum each scored three goals to lead Bethel’s balanced attack, while goalie Anne Habeck preserved the victory with nine saves.
“Today, our motto was ‘Control the Draw, Win the Game,’” Nyborg said. “We felt that if we were able to control the draw and settle on offense, we’d be able to get the goals because we’re a pretty strong offensive team.”
Morgan Stankiewicz led Brookfield (2-3) with three goals, while Olivia Davidson scored two and Eliza Floyd, Riley Delehanty, Alexandra Heckmann and Carly Wallin each scored one. Amber Howe and Natalie Rossi shared time in goal and combined to make five saves.
“We kind of made it harder for ourselves with the turnovers, so we just need to clean it up, and we’ll see improvement after that,” Brookfield coach Nicole Perrone said. “We have a lot of talent, but it’s the first time a lot of them are playing together, and we’re still just trying to make it click.”
It was certainly a game of runs early on, as Bethel scored the first four goals, Brookfield scored the next five to take a 5-4 lead. The scores was tied at 6 with less than a minute remaining in the first half when Bethel regained possession. With 11.2 seconds to go, Ruiz set up Nyborg for the go-ahead goal.
“One of the things I wanted my girls to focus on today was being more disciplined on the attack end and waiting for the right opportunity rather than just going right to the goal right away,” Rinas said. “That was the key difference in today’s game. They executed that kind of patient offense very well.”
Though the Wildcats extended their lead to 9-6 early in the second half, they were far from out of the woods. The Bobcats came back with a rally of their own, and goals by Wallin and Floyd trimmed the Bethel lead to 9-8 with 10:16 to go.
That was as close as Brookfield came, however, as Habeck made several key saves midway through the second half to protect the lead.
“She’s amazing,” Nyborg said of Habeck. “I’m so proud of her. It’s her first year playing goalie, and she’s stepped up so much. She’s awesome.”
Habeck was rewarded for her efforts when the Wildcats scored three goals in less than three minutes — two by Barnum and one by Ruiz — to open a 12-8 lead with 3:46 on the clock.
These two teams will meet again, this time in a South-West Conference game, on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Rockwell School field in Bethel.
“There is a lot of speed and a lot of talent on this Brookfield team, so I think Tuesday’s rematch will be really interesting,” Rinas said. “We’re not going into Tuesday thinking that it’s going to be an easy win at all.”
BETHEL 12, BROOKFIELD 9
BROOKFIELD6 3 — 9
BETHEL7 5 — 12
Records: Bethel 2-4; Brookfield 2-3. Scoring: Be—Vicky Gracy 3 goals, 2 assists; Christiana Ruiz 3g, 3a; Maranda Nyborg 3g; Samantha Barnum 3g; Maggie Mossop 1a. Bk—Morgan Stankiewicz 3g, 1a; Eliza Floyd 1g, 1a; Riley Delehanty 1g; Alexandra Heckmann 1g, 1a; Olivia Davidson 2g, 1a; Carly Wallin 1g; Courtney Delehanty 1a. Goalies: Be—Anne Habeck (9 saves); Bk—Amber Howe (3), Natalie Rossi (2). Shots: Be—20; Bk—21.