South River trailed Bay Division rival Southern, 6-5, early in the second half of yesterday's girls lacrosse clash when the Seahawks' diminutive firecracker, freshman Meagan Riley, began popping off.
Andbefore the visiting Bulldogs knew what hit them, they were behind, 12-6, and skidding into their third straight loss, 14-9.
The blond-haired, 5-footer led a seven-minute, eight-goal explosion -- scoring five of them -- despite having scored only eight goals in the 5-3 Seahawks' previous games.
She was the most unlikely of heroes, with top-scoring teammates like Kristy Moltz (32 goals) and Peggy Schreiber (19 goals, 17 assists) in the lineup. The two seniors each contributed three goals and an assist for the Seahawks, but it was the smaller Riley who came through the biggest.
"The girls on the other side of the field were all taller than me and they were beating me in the first half," said Riley, who tied the game at six and scored the Seahawks' eighth, ninth, 11th and 12th goals.
"I heard someone say, 'Double-team No. 14 (her jersey number),' but they never did. I just figured that if I'm open, my teammates would see me, if not, oh well."
But it was "Oh no" for Southern every time Riley touched the ball. She was hungry, and her teammates kept feeding her. She nailed the tying goal unassisted before getting relays from Jamie Pyle (two goals, two assists), Moltz, Pyle once again, and Schreiber.
"I've been waiting to see her play in high school ever since I started coaching her in the Mayo Leagues," said South River's first-yearcoach Paula Tobin. "I guess the wait was worth it."
All of Riley's tallies came to the right of Southern keeper Crystal Bennett.
"Idon't know what happened to our defense, because they just kept getting those one-on-ones," said Bennett, whose team led, 3-0, in the game's first nine minutes, and 5-4, at the half. "I'd go out and try to stop one of them, and then the other one would just maneuver around me."
Ranked No. 7 in the metro area, Southern (6-3, 2-1) didn't score again until Kari Sherbert came up with her 19th goal of the year with 9:39 remaining to cut it to 12-7.
But the Bulldogs could get no closer the rest of the way, as Schreiber and Heather Riley, Meagan's older sister, scored for the Seahawks, and the Bulldogs' Rachel Gladwell and Jennie Young scored their 16th and 32nd goals of the season, respectively.
If Meagan Riley was the explosion, midfielder Schreiber was the fuse, winning all 24 of her draws in the game.
"I'vebeen working a lot on positioning and it came through for me today,"said Schreiber.
Southern's sixth-year coach Linda Kilpatrick said, "We're playing absolutely terrible right now. They were catching the ball and running right through our defensive end. Our shooting percentage and catching and throwing the last few games has been terribleand we're not going to beat many teams playing like this."
Seahawks' keeper Cher Coleman entered the game averaging 16 saves and had plenty to do with the Bulldogs' frustration. She stopped 17 of Southerns' 27 shots -- including several from point-blank range.
With four goals, Young was the Bulldogs' top scorer on the day, but Southern's second-leading scorer, Talaya Barnett (30 goals), was limited to a goal.
The game got ugly in the later stages, with nine yellow cards and one red card being doled out. Gladwell (two yellow cards) was ejected with 1:23 left in the game, only 24 minutes after South River's Angie King received the game's only red card.
Four players were injured, including the Bulldogs' Liza Bigger (14 goals), who broke a finger on her right hand and played the entire second half in a splint.