FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High lacrosse ace Jillian Labelle’s goal with 30 seconds remaining lifted host Fleming Island to a 10-9 victory over previously unbeaten Neptune Beach Fletcher on …
FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High lacrosse ace Jillian Labelle’s goal with 30 seconds remaining lifted host Fleming Island to a 10-9 victory over previously unbeaten Neptune Beach Fletcher on Wednesday, March 3, maintaining the Golden Eagles’ perfect start to the season.
“I love those kind of games,” said Fleming Island head coach Chris Peterson afterwards. ”They are so much fun.”
Especially when you have senior leadership and a 5’8” ball of energy on your side.
In a seesaw battle featured seven ties and six lead changes, Fleming Island scored the final two goals to snatch the victory. Summer Knight tied the game at 9 with 2:28 left on the clock by drawing a foul within the eight-meter arc and scoring off of the ensuing free position. Knight had failed on two previous free position attempts, once sending a shot over the crossbar and once letting the ball fall out of her stick before she could get a shot off.
“That is what a senior brings,” said Peterson. “Summer was not phased by it, and I am always confident in her.”
Two minutes later, the Senators were whistled for another foul as Labelle drove toward the goal. Holding her stick aloft at the upper right side of the arc, the sophomore took five quick steps toward the goal upon the referee’s restart whistle. As a defender closed in from each side, Labelle flicked a shot over Fletcher goalie Maddie Strubhar’s left shoulder and into the net, setting off a celebration on the Golden Eagles sideline.
“I saw that the top right corner was wide open and I shot the ball as hard as I could,” said Labelle, who scored three goals and led all players with 11 ground balls. Her ability to outrun Senators to loose balls off of the draw, along with a knack for emerging from scrums with possession, was a key reason why the Golden Eagles enjoyed a 25-15 shot advantage.
“Jillian is fast, she is physical, and she never needs a rest,” said Peterson. “She was all over the field.”
Knight had three goals on the evening. Isabella Marx, another senior, had a hat trick and added two assists while directing the Golden Eagles offense from behind the goal.
The first half saw the teams take turns going on runs. Fletcher scored three goals in the first seven minutes. Then Fleming Island went on a four-goal spree, finding success with drives from behind the goal by Marx and freshman Sophia Roberts. Fletcher responded with three more goals, but took only a 6-5 lead into halftime when Labelle fought through four defenders on a drive from midfield to deliver a drive past Strubhar.
Senators Keily Davis, who led Fletcher with 3 goals, and Jaime McElveen scored to give the visitors a 9-8 lead with 6:23 remaining, setting up the heroics from Knight and Labelle.
Knight won nine of 14 draws. Fleming Island needed the extra possessions, for although they outshot the Senators, Strubhar made nine saves to keep Fletcher in the game. A decision by Peterson to replace Knight in the faceoff circle in the fourth quarter with Maya Dawson paid off. Dawson, a senior with only a few practices under her belt because she was busy playing for the Golden Eagles soccer team which made it to the state semifinals, won three of four faceoffs, including the two that led to the tying and winning goals.
“Summer had been phenomenal, but It was getting late in the game and I just felt we needed some fresh legs in there,” explained Peterson.
The Golden Eagles’ season-opening winning streak reached five with a 19-0 victory over Sandalwood on March 5. Labelle and Marx each scored four goals in that game. Missing three starters, the Golden Eagles lost 16-3 at Gainesville Buchholz on March 6, but bounced back with a 19-2 smashing of Palm Coast Matanzas on March 9 and a 14-1 thumping of St. Joseph Academy on March 11 to run their record to 7-1. Fleming Island returns to action March 25 with a home game against Wolfson.
Fletcher fell to 5-1.