McDaniel comes up big in goal as Bartram Trail tops Ponte Vedra 15-8 in girls lacrosse

If it seemed like defending state girls lacrosse champion Bartram Trail was well prepared for district rival Ponte Vedra, there was a good reason.


“We’ve been preparing for this game all season,” Bartram Trail coach Meghan Jackowiak said.

The host Bears trailed early Wednesday night but then picked up their defense to run away with a 15-8 victory over the Sharks, who were state finalists in 2014 and 2015.

Bartram goalie Kaeleigh McDaniel had 12 saves, and the Bears held Ponte Vedra scoreless for a span of 22 minutes, 16 seconds after Ponte Vedra’s Ellie Lecker pulled the Sharks to within a goal at 7-6 with 5:26 left in the first half.

“Kaeleigh came up huge in goal,” Jackowiak said. “She had 12 saves against one of the best teams in the state.”

Six different players scored for Bartram (7-3, 3-1 in District 5), with Mya Watson and Karlie Vockell scoring four goals apiece. Danielle Kelley and Grace Tybor each scored two goals and Lauren Saarela and Kelley Payne scored one goal each.

Lecker scored a game-high five goals for the Sharks (5-3, 3-1). Tess Reiman, Caroline O’Neil and Abbey Watson each added a score.

One of the differences in the game was in free positions where Bartram converted 6 of 8, while Ponte Vedra was 2 for 6.

“Eight meters was honestly one of our weaknesses, but I couldn’t be more proud with the way we finished (them) tonight, And our defense did an incredible job stopping their free positions,” Jackowiak said.

The game went back and forth early but the momentum shifted to the Bears’ favor after Ponte Vedra’s Emma Johnson received her second yellow card with 11:11 left in the first half and Bartram leading 5-4. The Bears quickly took the first two-goal lead of the game less than a minute later on Mya Watson’s free position score.

Saarela’s goal off a Mya Watson assist made it 11-6 with 12 seconds left in the half.

McDaniel and the rest of the defense kept the Sharks out of the net for most of the second half. Abbey Watson’s unassisted goal with 8:10 left broke the drought, but by then the score was 14-7.

“I concentrated on following the ball,” McDaniel said. “Last year I didn’t play that much. Coming into the game I felt I had something to prove.”

The whole team felt that way.

“We definitely clicked this game,” Mya Watson said. “This game is the start to the season. Last season was the same thing. We started slow and we picked it up midseason. We’re jelling as a team. When we work together we’re amazing.”

After losing five starters from last year’s state championship team, Jackowiak knew that this team would take time to develop. It appears her squad has arrived.

“We’re arguably in the hardest district in the state,” Jackowiak said. “To have six different players score against a team like this is unbelievable. Our girls are finding ways to fit into new roles. This is the first time I’ve seen this team play with such confidence in themselves.”