OCEAN CITY - The Ocean City and Mainland Regional high school girls lacrosse teams were both thinking about the Cape-Atlantic League championship going into their highly anticipated rematch Monday at the Tennessee Avenue Complex.
Ocean City twice overcame three-goal deficits and dominated Mainland in the second half to earn a 14-9 victory. Now the defending champion Red Raiders are one step away from the CAL crown.
Ocean City will host Egg Harbor Township at 4 p.m. Wednesday and would win the CAL outright with a victory.
Senior Casey Hanna led Ocean City with six goals, including four during the first half. Tess Solazzo, a senior who is the Red Raiders' all-time leading goal scorer, overcame the shadowing of Mustangs defenders to score five, including three during the second half. Kelly Hanna, Casey's sister, scored Ocean City's other three goals.
O.C., which is ranked 11th in The Press Elite 11, improved to 14-3 overall and 14-1 in the CAL. The league loss was 8-7 to Mainland on April 24. Mainland, 10th in the Elite 11, is 11-2 overall and 10-2 in the CAL.
"We've been thinking about this game ever since we lost to them," said Casey Hanna, 18, of Seaville in Upper Township. "It was great - everything I hoped for in my senior year. Now we can think about Egg Harbor Township. They always come to play."
Casey Hanna will play field hockey for Monmouth University in West Long Branch on a scholarship. The Hanna sisters were both members of Ocean City's state Group III champion field hockey team this past fall.
"I'm sad that lacrosse is ending for me," Casey Hanna said. "I hope we can go far in the playoffs because I don't want it to end."
Alyssa Preis, who assisted the last four years at Washington Township, is the Red Raiders' coach.
"Once we fixed some defensive problems (at halftime), we caused more turnovers," Preis said. "Playing like always wouldn't have been enough to beat Mainland."
Ocean City outscored the Mustangs 9-3 in the second half, winning most of the draws and controlling the game. O.C. trailed 6-5 at halftime, but Solazzo tied it as she beat a defender and scored. Kelly Hanna gave the Red Raiders the lead for good less than three minutes into the second half, and scored again from in front less than two minutes later. Solazzo's goal from the left of the net made it 9-6.
Mainland cut the lead to 9-8, but Solazzo, Kelly Hanna and Casey Hanna scored consecutively to make it 12-8.
"We came out firing in the second half," said Solazzo, an 18-year-old Ocean City resident. "We controlled the possessions, and that definitely helped because every time we had the ball we scored."
Solazzo, who will play next year for Ohio State University on a scholarship, scored her 300th career goal on Thursday in a 21-6 win over Absegami.
"Everyone doubles on Tess, but she doesn't feel the pressure because she can beat (the defenders) and has really good teammates to pass to," Preis said.
Solazzo sets up the plays and controls much of the action for Ocean City. The Red Raiders gave up two goals when Solazzo went off with a two-minute penalty with less than 15 minutes left in the first half. Mainland's Riley Dolan scored on a low shot to put the visitors up 4-2 and teammate Anna Gordon made it 5-2 before Solazzo returned.
Casey Hanna scored three goals before halftime to keep O.C. in the game, and Mainland's Lauren Ziereis scored once to keep the Mustangs up 6-5 at halftime.
Dolan and Ziereis each had three goals for Mainland. Mainland goalie Brianna Gerstel had 11 saves, and O.C. keeper Maura Twiggs have five saves.
"We controlled 80 percent of the draws on them in the first (game), but they had the edge this time," Mainland coach Bernadette Daley said. "We had four of our best defenders on (Solazzo) at different times. Ocean City is a tough team. They came out in the second half and controlled the ball."
Contact Guy Gargan:
Mainland Regional 6 3-9
Ocean City 5 9-14
Goals-Dolan (3), Ziereis (3), Klever, Stangle, Gordon M. C. Hanna (6), Solazzo (5), K. Hanna (3) OC.
Goalies-Gerstel (11) M. Twiggs (5) OC.
Records-Mainland 11-2, O.C. 14-3.