BRIARCLIFF MANOR – After nearly letting a lead slip away late against Pleasantville on Tuesday, Briarcliff came in knowing what to do against Westlake in the second annual Mount Pleasant Cup championship game on Thursday.
With the memory of Pleasantville’s near-comeback in the tournament’s opening round on their minds, the Bears built an early three-goal lead and barely let up the whole way through in a 15-9 win.
“It’s special, but also being a senior, and with my fellow eight seniors, it was so big to win this,” senior midfielder Lexi Grasso said. “We all worked so hard and we came out to win our last Cup.”
It was Grasso, one of the team’s key players from last year, who was the team’s primary offensive facilitator. She led the way with team highs of four goals and three assists and was named the tournament’s MVP.
“Lexi is our ground-ball machine; she always comes up big and brings the intensity,” Briarcliff head coach Jessica McDonagh said. “It was nice for us to host the Mount Pleasant Cup, it’s the second time winning it, so we’re very happy.”
With the Bears holding a 6-2 halftime lead, freshman midfielder Maddie Plank scored her first goal of the game only 14 seconds into the second half to push the lead to five goals. After Westlake’s Katie Sanders responded at the 22:35 mark, Plank scored again a minute later.
Plank, seniors Jordana Cohen and Lauren Friedman, junior goalkeeper Liz Kreppel and senior defender Erin O’Donnell all made the all-tournament team.
“I really like it; it’s a lot more competitive than JV last year,” said Plank, a first-year varsity player. “At first I was nervous, but I think I’m finding my place. It’s a really good fit for me.”
Westlake was led by senior attacker Lauren Holzer, who had a game-high five goals.She opened the scoring for Westlake at the 17:21 mark of the first half with her 100th career goal.
She was named to the all-tournament team, along with teammates Emily Sardo and Allie Falkenberg.
“She’s outstanding, she’s our main weapon on attack and on the draw, she’s our number one,” Westlake head coach Dan Smith said of Holzer. “It’s an early snapshot, but there are a lot of positives to take out of this. Still stuff to work on, but with 14 games left to play, a lot of road left.”
Player of the game: Lexi Grasso, Briarcliff. She was the tournament MVP. Does anything else really need to be said?
Turning point: After Briarcliff built a 3-0 lead, Westlake got goals from Holzer and Sardo to cut the Bears’ lead to one. The Bears quickly responded: senior attacker Nikki Nero and Grasso scored 27 seconds apart to push the lead up to 5-2 at the 15:27 mark.
Stat line: Briarcliff’s Plank had two goals and an assist, Kelly O’Donnell had three goals and an assist, Cohen had two goals and an assist, Nero scored twice, while Friedman and Jill Reiner each had a one-goal, one-assist game. … Katie Sanders, Falkenberg and Kiera Donnelly each had a goal for Westlake. … Kreppel made seven saves for Briarcliff, while Daisy Yunga made three saves for Westlake.
Quotable: “Pleasantville is one of our biggest rivals, but Westlake is right there with them,” Grasso said. “We knew we had to come out stronger; we learned from some of our troubles in the Pleasantville game and we had to work on them. We clearly showed that we put in the work.”
Consolation game: Pleasantville, coming off of a 13-12 loss to Briarcliff in the opening round, jumped out to a 6-0 lead early and eventually rolled to a 15-4 win over Valhalla in the tournament’s consolation game.
“We didn’t come out on top two days ago; putting everything together felt good,” Pleasantville senior attacker Nicole DiFabio said. “We wanted to get a lead early on, which we didn’t get in the Briarcliff game.”
DiFabio, who had three goals and two assists in the game, was named to the all-tournament team, along with teammate Riley Kennedy. Stephanie Halbauer was named to the all-tournament team for Valhalla.