MARLTON – Mekenzie Montgomery has long been an explosive player on the Rancocas Valley girls lacrosse team, having recently passed the 200-goal mark for her career.
Avery Sweeney has spent the bulk of her varsity career playing on the defensive end of the field before moving to the midfield for her senior season.
Her offensive skills aren’t as developed as Montgomery’s but her coach says Sweeney has deposited a couple of big goals for the team this season.
Together, Montgomery and Sweeney led the Red Devils to a hard-fought 10-9 win over Cherokee Thursday in a non-league game.
Montgomery scored four goals for the game and Sweeney tallied two, including the game-winner, with 1:09 to play.
Coach Sara Shelley spoke about how Sweeney is taking on a new role for this season.
“She’s a low-defender and will probably play all low-D in college,” she said. “Just because of the dynamics of our team we’ve had to move her up to the mid-field this year.”
Sweeney spoke about making the move in positions wasn’t easy at first.
“I was uncomfortable,” she said. “I didn’t want to move out of my comfort zone, but for the team, I knew I had to step it up since we lost key players in the midfield last year.”
Shelley was not surprised that Sweeney made a smooth transition.
“She’s just a real good lacrosse player,” the coach said. “She’s a tough player, a good leader and a great athlete. You can tell she wants it, and that’s what you get when you want it.”
“She doesn’t have the natural attacking skills, but she’s got the heart.”
Sweeney’s second goal Thursday broke a 9-9 tie after Cherokee had rallied from a late 8-5 deficit.
She has not scored many bigger goals during the course of her career.
“It was really exciting,” Sweeney said. “I knew we were tied and we stayed composed on offense for a while and moved the ball around. We were trying to run down the clock as much as possible and when I saw the open lane I took it.”
Before that, it was Montgomery who helped the Red Devils build their lead. She scored two goals in each half, her fourth goal giving Rancocas their three-goal lead with 13:54 to play.
Shelley has grown used to seeing Montgomery put the ball in the net.
“She’s been our third-leading scorer the past two years, and she she’s stepped up to score a ton of goals,” Shelley said. “She scores in big games and she plays extremely hard, and she’s had a really nice season.”
One of the things Montgomery’s coaches and teammates admire about her, is that despite her individual skills, she considers herself a team player.
“I’m not scoring to rack up my individual stats,” Montgomery said. “I want to win. The purpose of being here is to win and move our team farther. I’m scoring for my team.
“Scoring is great, but when we’re winning as a team that’s what matters.”
With Montgomery and Sweeney leading the way, the Red Devils were able to survive a strong Cherokee effort that was led by Gab Citotti with three goals and Mary Carroll with two.
Carroll helped led the Cherokee comeback when she scored two goals to ignite a 5-1 run that got the Chiefs back into the game.
“Our girls fought to the end,” said Cherokee coach Jeff Niederberger. “Our girls never quit, and that’s been our M.O. They show a lot of heart.”
In fact, the Chiefs took a brief 9-8 lead when Citotti scored with 3:40 left in the game, but Rancocas answered with the final two goals.
A goal by Ashley Orendak tied the score with 2:50 to play setting the stage for Sweeney’s final heroics.