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Even though Catherine Larrow didn’t get to play her senior season with the Guilford girls’ lacrosse team, she still a great career and helped the Indians make history by winning their first SCC title last year. Pictured on the left is sophomore Maddie Epke. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Maggie Mandel was an anchor on defense for the Indians throughout the course of her high school lacrosse career. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The Guilford girls’ lacrosse squad reached new heights in 2019 and was looking to improve upon that success during the spring of 2020. Fresh off winning its first SCC title in program history, the Indians were returning a strong class of seniors, along with a bunch of other players who were ready to make their mark.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down in recent weeks, resulting in the cancellation of the spring season. Head Coach Wendy Epke had great expectations for her team this year and feels sad that her athletes, particularly her seniors, won’t get a chance to achieve their goals.
“It’s largely a feeling of disappointment for the girls this year. We had a large group of girls returning for this season, and we accomplished so much in 2019,” Epke said. “The good news is there is a core of girls that will continue to compete in game-type situations leading up to next season. The bad news is the girls will lose a year together, which will be valuable time lost.”
After her team finished with a record of 14-8 in 2018, Coach Epke said the Indians performed as well as they ever have last spring. Guilford achieved an overall record of 18-3 for the 2019 season, scoring 307 goals, while allowing 170 goals on the campaign.
The Indians’ top three returning players were senior Catherine Larrow, junior Hannah Tillier, and sophomore Maddie Epke. Larrow scored the most goals by any player in Guilford girls’ lacrosse history with 78 on the campaign. She also dished out 34 assists and scooped up 25 ground balls. Epke had 42 goals and 33 assists to go with 51 ground balls and 121 draw controls last year. Tillier stuffed the stat sheet with 21 goals, 15 assists, 23 ground balls, and 68 draw controls.
Larrow and Epke both earned All-SCC First Team accolades for Guilford. Epke made the All-State First Team, and Larrow was an All-State Second Team honoree.
“Catherine was going for most career goals in school history this season, but that was cut short, unfortunately, due to this pandemic,” Coach Epke said. “I think she definitely would have broke the record this year.”
Larrow wishes that she could have gone on one last run with the Indians. Still, Larrow will always cherish all the positive experiences that she’s enjoyed at Guilford and feels the program has plenty of bright days in store.
“The Guilford lacrosse team has brought me so many great relationships and memories. I have loved every minute on and off the field with my teammates and coaches,” said Larrow. “Having this season, the season that was supposed to be my final season with this team, [be canceled] is so hard for me to comprehend. I am heartbroken that I won’t wear a Guilford jersey and play for my school again, but I know that the girls I have played with and the ones to follow will do great things.”
One of those players is sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Widlitz, who started in net for the Indians as a freshman last season. Widlitz was named the Most Outstanding Player of the SCC Tournament when Guilford earned an 11-10 win versus Cheshire in the conference final.
“One of the biggest parts of our team comes at goalkeeper, and it’s so rare that we were able to bring in Sydney as a freshman,” Epke said. “She plays the position year-round, and she is a rock for us in net. Without her, we would be a much different team.”
Defender Maggie Mandel was an All-SCC Second Team selection as a junior last year. Coach Epke has high praise for Mandel, who was named one of Guilford’s senior captains for 2020.
“Maggie is a tough competitor that was very dedicated to the team in the offseason and was looking forward to leading the defensive unit this year,” said Epke.
Even with the season being canceled, Coach Epke has tried to keep her team motivated by doing some virtual training sessions. The players send in a video feed of them practicing, and then the coaches give feedback as to what they can be doing to improve.
“I think the girls have done a good job of trying to maintain a virtual session, but it’s tough for a lot of them to find the motivation, because they don’t know when the next game is going to be played,” Epke said. “It’s easy for a lot of players to just take this time and relax, but we are trying to keep them motivated and ready to go.”
In addition to coaching at the high school, Epke is a middle school physical education teacher at both Adams and Baldwin. She also helped out with coaching Guilford’s middle school field hockey team last fall. Epke said that there’s something special about how people are helping are other people during these tying times.
“Things have certainly been different with the pandemic happening, and it’s forced a lot of us as instructors to find ways to keep the kids active and involved,” said Epke. “It’s difficult, but it’s also rewarding at the same time to see all of us come together in a time like this.”
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