WEST LONG BRANCH -- The Shore Regional Blue Devils opened their 2016 girls lacrosse season with a 10-6 loss to Westfield Wednesday afternoon. The battle of Blue Devils for the second year in a row went the way of Westfield following a back and forth affair that had everything from rust, turnovers, balanced attack and heart that showed why they are both among the top teams in the state with Shore ranked #20 and Westfield #12 in New Jersey.

Westfield jumped on the board early when Julia Gretsky broke through the Shore defense and beat freshman goaltender Jill Olsen for a 1-0 lead just twenty four seconds in.  Shore Regional would answer the call a minute later when MaryKate George intercepted a pass and beat freshman Carlie Swanson to tie the game at 1-1.  The two freshman goaltenders would stand tall in their opening high school careers combining for 15 saves, Swanson with nine and Olsen with six.

Shore Regional's Jill Olsen makes a save against Westfield (photo Eric Braun)

Shore Regional looked like it was starting to settle into the new season as they opened a two goal lead midway through the first half when Becca Witschel and Mary Kate scored minutes apart of each other to increase Shore's lead to 3-1.  After a Westfield timeout, the Blue Devils answered Shore's mini run with a run of their own by scoring three unanswered goals in the closing minutes of the half on goals from Maria Nemeth and two from Hallie Rosenburgh.  Shore's senior leader and top goal scorer from a year ago, finally got on the board with just over a minute to go to tie the game at 4-4 heading into the half.

Shore Regional came out of the halftime break and scored in the opening minutes to retake the lead for the second time against Westfield when Allie Reiser  beat Swanson for what would be their final lead of the game.  Westfield answered with another unanswered three goal outbreak to take a 7-5 lead just five minutes into the half on goals from Gretsky, Nemeth and Hannah Liddy.

This was a huge second half swing that Shore Regional assisted with five turnovers during the stretch to assist a very talented Westfield squad that settled down their offense and showed poise and ball movement enroute to their second half lead.  Shore Regional uncharacteristically converted 15 turnovers due to pressure from Westfield and early season nerves and focus.

Shore Regional showed their veteran makeup  and leadership though as they battled Westfield to the very end and fell just short upsetting Westfield in the season opener.  Sarah George would add her second of the three goals on the day to cut the lead to 7-6 and Erin Rogers tied it at 7-7 with just over sixteen minutes to play.

Westfield wasted no time answering Shore's run and scored just ten seconds later on a goal from Nemeth to make it 8-7.  The Blue Devils for the third time in the game use a three goal outburst after Liddy netted two more to push the lead to 10-7 and would eventually be too much for Shore Regional to overcome.

But Shore was not going down without a fight as Sarah would put on a performance late in the game as she split two defenders off the end line and spun around another defender at the top of goal area to rival a shot past Swanson to cut the lead to 10-8.  Needing to win the opening draw, Shore was unable to secure the loose ball and Westfield took advantage taking nearly three minutes of the clock before Shore was able to get the ball back.  The Blue Devils would cut the lead to 10-9 with just twelve seconds to play when Talia Binns netted her first goal of the season.

For Shore Regional it was a tough opening day loss but plenty to learn from and nothing to hang their heads on as they battled back after every punch that Westfield would throw at them.  Up next for rah George Shore is a home contest against division rival Manasquan Saturday at 10am.


Shore Regional (9)...Sarah George 3 goals, Mary Kate George 2 goals and 2 assists, Allie Reiser 1 goal and  1 assist, Erin Rodgers 1 goal and 1 assist, Becca Witschel 1 goal and 1 assist, Talia Binns 1 goal and 1 assits…SAVES Jill Olsen 6.

Westfield (10)…Hannah Liddy 3 goals and 2 assists, Maria Nemeth 3 goals, Julia Gretsky 2 goals and 1 assist, Hailee Rosenburgh 2 goals, Syd Radetti 1 assist, Shelby Taylor 1 assist…SAVES Carlie Swanson 9.