Good Sport: What’s a little reign? Guilford Women’s Lacrosse running the ODAC

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by Jeff Laughlin

The rain subsided, leaving 20 or so fans with folded umbrellas and wet metal seats. A few of them huddled together to cheer on the visiting team. Occasional voices of encouragement littered the mostly quiet stands, but the ladies on the field did more than enough shouting.

Sweet Briar College’s Allison McLamb cradled the ball as she dove toward Guilford College’s goal with 7 minutes left. Sammi Milbourn, the Guilford goalie, screamed “Crash, crash, crash!” as her defense reacted. It was too late. McLamb scored her first of two straight goals.

McLamb’s late-game charge did not faze the Quakers, though. By the time I’d found a parking spot, Guilford led 4-0. The team came into the day undefeated in conference play and they intended to stay that way.

Eventually, Guilford’s run tallied 11-0. Senior attacker/midfielder Lily Colley began the onslaught with an unassisted goal. She’s won two consecutive Old Dominion Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors and looked sharp again in the blowout, finishing with three goals and four assists.

Already the career assist leader in Guilford College history, Colley looks to become the all-time points leader before her career ends this year. She also leads the conference in points (59) and assists (28).

Second-year Head Coach Sarah Lamphier knows Colley is a monster.

“I try to have a balanced attack. She’s not only scoring, but she’s important for setting people up. I’m relying on a lot of people to attack,” Lamphier said.

By halftime, the Quakers led 16-1. They fell into a ball-control offense led by sharp passing while motion through the middle of the defense went largely ignored. These are the times coaches watch for lapses in concentration. In any sport, being ahead or behind by large margins give you unique chances to watch younger bench players develop and witness how a team stays on task.

“Great team effort,” Lamphier said. “People who worked hard in practice got to play today. Megan Gaeth, a freshman from Colorado, scored in two out of the three games I have played her in. She didn’t really play lacrosse until later, but she’s incorporating everything I teach in practice. Madison Ruppenthal, she came up with a caused turnover and a got a ground ball. I love to see that in practice and in games.”

E’leyna Garcia had four goals and two assists. Marina Bailey had two. A litany of other players chipped in as well. The Quakers ended the day with 18 goals, but honestly, it could have been worse.

Instead, they battled to maintain possession. The subtle details in lacrosse shine through when one team can maintain control for long periods of time. Cross-field passes, cuts off the ball, defensive stands when they don’t seem to count — each move’s precision defined how dominant Guilford was. Even when Sweet Briar gained possession, Quaker players forced turnovers. They scooped up ground balls excellently — the 50-50 balls seemed to belong to Guilford all day.

“We work on connections, but team makes a lot of mistakes,” Lamphier said. “We spend a lot of time on those little details that are so important. We’re going to make mistakes, so we have to be good at cleaning them up.”

In fact, they led every statistical category.

The Quakers improved to 6-3 overall while moving to 4-0 within their conference. They get an easy win just as their schedule gets tough. This week includes games at 2-1 Roanoke, a usual conference powerhouse, and at 1-2 Bridgewater.

For now, the Quakers sit in second in the ODAC with 5-0 Washington and Lee, a team they will play in two weeks on the road, in first.

The rain started again, drizzling down on the listless crowd. They had come to see a game and got a blowout. But the ladies soldiered on. Sweet Briar’s goalie Ashton Reid, their second-half replacement for overmatched starter Emily Williams, ferociously barked instructions to her defense. Each move Guilford made, she instinctively called it out.

As it worked all day, though, Guilford moved too fast. The more athletic team executed well and when that happens, the outcome is inevitable.

The best teams know how to keep running, even when they have already won.