CENTREVILLE — Fending off perhaps the best performance ever by North Caroline High’s girls’ lacrosse team, the Lions were barely one goal better Thursday evening at Lions Stadium.

Bella Rulapaugh attacked from behind the goal and fired an overhand shot inside the near post with 2 minutes, 1 second remaining and Queen Anne’s County held its lead for a 10-9 victory.

Trailing 10-8, North Caroline’s Camryn Pepper, alone behind the Lions’ defense except for goalie Abby Simonetti, scored with 10.7 seconds remaining after a pass from midfield by Sydnie Bisesi. Pearl Sutton then collected the loose ball off the ensuing draw for the Bulldogs and fed Corinne Webb, who rushed straight upfield toward the cage and was fouled as time ran out. The referees conferred and ruled the foul was committed outside the scoring area, thereby ending the game.

Rulapaugh finished with a hat trick for the Lions, who improved to 6-1 overall, 1-0 North Bayside. Addy Caulk, Kylie Tulowitzky, and Sarah Bowyer each netted two goals for the Lions.

“They’re a pretty good team,” Lions head coach Penelope Santos Bates said. “They have some good players; they’ve been getting better each year. The first half North Caroline’s pressure on us in transition definitely rattled us. It made us work hard. It caused a lot of errors and we had to fix it in the second half. I feel that we did a much better job the second half.”

Pepper finished with a game-high six goals for the Bulldogs (5-2, 0-1), who took a 6-4 lead with 19:54 left in the game on a goal by Chloe Kerstetter.

The Lions rebounded with three straight goals for a 7-6 lead but couldn’t get more than a two-goal lead the rest of the game.

The game started like usual between the two teams. Queen Anne’s, a six-time regional champion since 2010, built a 3-0 lead on two goals by Caulk and another by Rulapaugh. But the Bulldogs called a timeout and worked their way back.

Two free-possession tallies by Pepper closed their deficit to 3-2 with 7:06 remaining in the first half.

Queen Anne’s Logan Schweiger scored high off a pass from Haley Stallings to put the Lions up 4-2 with 2:34 left. But Pepper answered with 52 seconds remaining. Crossing in front of the crease, she fired a left-hander into the right side of the cage for a 4-3 game at the half.

Pepper faked left on a free-possession attack and scored right, past Simonetti (14 saves), to tie the game at 4-4 with 22:59 to go in the second half. With 20:57 remaining, she gave the Bulldogs a 5-4 lead. Collecting a pass from Sydney Baker, Pepper crossed on front of the goal again and pumped in a left-hander.

The Bulldogs continued their momentum with Sutton collecting the loose ball off the ensuing draw. At 19:54 Kerstetter attacked from behind the goal area, crossed in front of the crease, and tallied low right for North Caroline’s 6-4 lead.

The Lions decided that was enough of that. After Emma Caulk controlled a ground ball, seconds later Rulapaugh split through two defenders on the right side of the goal area and tallied past NC goalie Caitlyn Lane (six saves) to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 6-5 at 18:11. Twenty-eight seconds later, Bowyer fired an overhand shot into the net to tie the game at 6-all.

Tulowitzky flung in a sidearm shot off a feed from Schweiger to put the Lions up 7-6 at 14:30. But at 12:31, NC’s Violet Clarke spun away from defenders in the 8-meter arc and scored right to make it 7-7.

Queen Anne’s then went ahead to stay when Tulowitsky tallied off a pass from Shannon Donovan at 12:05. A minute later, Bowyer dodged a defender on an attack straight toward the goal and scored high left to make it 9-7 at 11:03.

NC’s Hailey Chester collected the loose ball off the ensuing draw and was fouled attempting to drive. She scored with a free-possession overhand shot to make it 9-8 at 10:03.

Rulapaugh got her stick checked on a free-possession attack and Lane made a save. Seconds later, Rulapaugh was yellow carded for an aggressive push at 8:15. Simonetti made a save on a free-possession attack by Pepper with 6:05 to play.

“She (Simonetti) did a nice job,” Santos Bates said. “She had a number of great saves, was able to run it a little bit and clear it. Definitely something we need to work on is our transition and clearing the ball.”

QA’s Isabella Bitter was yellow carded at 5:41. Soon after, the Lions’ defense thwarted another free-possession try from the 8-meter arc by Pepper.

The intensity continued for three more minutes until Rulapaugh pumped in what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 2:01.

That didn’t stop the Bulldogs until the clock reached zeroes.

“My girls, this is the best game we’ve ever played, the closest we’ve ever been to this team,” Bulldogs head coach Alexis Craddock said. “The hustle was a big, big component. All the girls left it all out there, gave it 110 percent. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”

Follow me on Twitter @csknauss / email me at cknauss@stardem.com

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