Girls lacrosse: Freshman Gianaris sparks Maine South over Libertyville
Sophia Gianaris has been playing, and excelling at, lacrosse since fifth grade.
Now just a few short years later, Gianaris -- who said she "fell in love with the sport" early on -- is making her presence felt big time as a freshman for Maine South.
The Hawks scored 11 unanswered goals over a span of 24 minutes Monday at Libertyville, turning a close game into a 15-3 advantage en route to a 17-7 win over the Wildcats in a Cook County vs. Lake County girls lacrosse matchup.
Gianaris was right in the thick of it during the Hawks flurry, scoring 5 times to lead her team to the win.
"We're super excited about her," said Maine South coach Claire Smith of the frosh. "We see her really going far. We've been working on building up her confidence in her stick skills, and she's going to be a very dangerous player for us. We're happy to have her."
Libertyville junior Tatum Blacker scored twice early to stake her team to a lead, and despite the lopsided score, Wildcats senior goalie Emma Lash was outstanding.
Lash faced a deluge of shots the entire contest, but was able to make quite a few remarkable saves, especially in the second half, to try to keep her team close.
"She's been our starter since the beginning of her sophomore season, and she's been outstanding," said Wildcats coach Andra Dalton of Lash, who will move on in the fall to enroll at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, where she'll major in art. "She came to us with no prior lacrosse experience, our frosh-soph coaches asked her if she wanted to play goalie, and the rest is history."
Maine South led just 4-3 with 13 minutes gone in the game after a goal by Libertyville's Megan Feeney, but then the Hawks went on their 11-goal run paced by the play of Gianaris, senior Annie Haley, and senior Alyssa Nilles, who scored on a point-blank laser to send the Hawks on their way.
Gianaris said that she's been enjoying her time for the Hawks this season.
"It's a really good experience," said the freshman. "I get a lot of playing time, and I feel like I have a new way of looking at the sport."
"I don't want to play like I'm a freshman though," said Gianaris. "I want to play and compete with the best and be active with the ball, and not just stand in the background."
Feeney helped lead a mild Libertyville rally, scoring twice late, but goals in the final minutes from Maine South sophomores Katie Gleason and Stephanie Prusa helped put the game in the win column for the Hawks.
"One thing we've been trying to work on is coming out and start really pushing it, not waiting a couple of minutes to get into it," said Smith. "Our players are very good at motivating each other. They know what they want from each other and they know what they want out of this team, and they know when to kick it in to high gear and that's what they did tonight."
"Libertyville is a good team," added Smith. "They've got some good players and they play hard."
For her part Libertyville's Dalton, who has been with the Wildcats program since 2006 and head coach since 2015, gave due credit to Maine South while also applauding the growth in general of girls lacrosse.
"Now we're seeing athletes come into the program with experience," said Dalton, "where in the past we were just getting a handful of people who had prior experience. The majority of our athletes now have played lacrosse before."
"Maine South is very good," added Dalton. "They are a tough team from a tough conference, the Central Suburban League. We knew we had to come out firing on all cylinders today."