PARIS — Oxford Hills made fast starts its trademark last season. At the start of this season, the Vikings are emphasizing finishing strong.

They did both in Tuesday’s girls’ lacrosse season-opener against Edward Little, sprinting out to a 4-0 lead in the first 4½ minutes, then pulling away down the stretch of a 17-8 victory at Gouin Athletic Complex.

Eight different Vikings found the back of the net for Oxford Hills, led by four goals apiece from Tayla Smedberg and Ally Hanley. Katie Bowie added three goals and Amber Jenkins two.

“Last year, we were a first-half team and then we crumbled in the second half,” Hanley said. “We’ve done a lot of running, like two miles almost every day, and it’s really helped us with conditioning.”

“We want to make sure we keep going through the whole game. We did very well today. We didn’t let down,” Smedberg said.

The young Red Eddies, with just one returning starter and many more playing their first lacrosse game ever, trailed by as much as five in the early stages but battled back to stay within range until about the midway point of the second half.  Fran Haines tallied a game-high six goals and Danielle Gagne scored the other two for Edward Little.

EL’s lone returning starter, goalkeeper Julia Langevin, kept the Eddies within striking distance with 10 saves.

“She played wonderful. She was very aggressive out there,” EL coach Jessica Somers said. “It’s the first game a lot of them have ever played, so once they kind of got their bearings, they got much better. They started to learn how to play together and started communicating.”

Jenkins knocked the Eddies off their bearings by winning the opening draw and attacking the cage for the game’s first goal just 10 seconds in.

Nicole Godbout, Bowie and Smedberg each scored their first goals of the year to make it 4-0 Vikings before Haines finally got EL on the board 4:41 in.

Bowie and Smedberg answered for a 6-1 Vikings advantage with 14:57 left in the half. Haines responded with two of her own to make it a three-goal game again.

The Eddies slowed things down on offense late in the half and stayed within three or four goals until Smedberg scored 3.3 seconds before halftime to give the Vikings an 11-6 lead at the break.

“When we slowed it down and played more in control, you could see our skills were much better,” Sommers said. “When we were rushed, we felt a little panicked and our passes got a little sloppy.”

Oxford Hills usually made them pay for those sloppy passes. Both teams stayed scoreless to start the second half until Hanley scooped up a turnover in EL’s end, burst through the middle of the back line and beat Langevin low to make it 12-6 a little over seven minutes in. Bowie added her third goal for a 13-6 lead with 15:17 left and the Vikings were well on their way.

“I think they were hungry for the ball and were ready to show what they’ve learned,” Oxford Hills coach Jaimie Brett said. “We’ve come a long way in just two weeks time.”


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