By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ERMA — A late change of venue and whipping high winds did nothing to slow down Maddie Barber and the Middle Township High School girls lacrosse team Monday afternoon.
Barber scored five goals and dished five assists and helped fuel a seven-goal run in the first half as Middle downed rival Lower Cape May, 16-5, Monday in a battle of teams that each entered the contest without a loss.
Originally scheduled to be played at Middle’s new lacrosse facility on Shunpike Road, the game was moved to Lower Cape May only about two hours prior to the scheduled start time after Middle’s field was deemed unplayable due to muddy conditions following overnight and morning rain.
“This is such a healthy rivalry that I think the girls were going to get hyped up for this wherever we played,” Middle coach Tina Prickett said. “We could have played anywhere.”
Ahead 4-3 early in the first half, Middle (8-0) took control of the game with seven straight tallies and eventually took a 12-4 lead into halftime.
Middle’s scoring pace slowed down after the break as Lower began to generate more chances. But the Lady Panthers were never threatened in the second half.
“When we found out we were coming here, we had to stay hyped up for the game,” Barber said. “We just had to come out and try to beat them on their home field.
“We knew coming in they were unbeaten. Our goal was to come in here and beat them. We didn’t want to be the ones with the first loss of the season.”
In addition to Barber’s output, senior Libby Bostard and junior Aubrey Hunter each scored four times for Middle. Division I LaSalle commit Kira Sides added two goals and Brianna Robinson chipped in one.
Middle controlled possession throughout. But Lower goalkeeper Melani Amador made 23 saves.
“They have three phenomenal players in Kira, Aubrey and Maddie,” Lower coach JoAnn McLaughlin said. “We tried to double Kira and Maddie. I thought we played pretty good defense and Mel was really strong in the cage.
“We had six different freshman played today that aren’t used to high-pressure games like this. I’m proud of how they stood up to the challenge.”
Carina Raymond scored twice and Sabrina Faulkner, Maddie Schiffbauer and Marissa Giancola each added goals for Lower (8-1), which played the game without one of its most dynamic players in Maya Critchfield, who suffered a season-ending injury earlier this month.
Middle has another big game Wednesday. The Lady Panthers travel to Mainland with first place in the Cape-Atlantic National Conference on the line. Middle beat Mainland, 13-12, in the season opener for both teams but the Lady Panthers had to hang on at the finish after holding a five-goal lead at one point in the second half.
“We see Mainland Wednesday and that’s going to be another tight game,” Prickett said. “This one will be on the road so it might even be tougher. But the girls have been putting in the work.”
Lower faces a big CAL American Conference game Wednesday against Ocean City.
NOTE: Monday’s game was broadcast live on CoastSportsToday.com.