May 12—Oakdale senior Gabby Averill wasn't just a fan when she attended the Mount St. Mary's women's lacrosse team's win over Wagner in Saturday's NEC championship game — Averill has committed to play lacrosse for the Mount.
She was recruited to play defense, a role she's held throughout most of her career. But before assuming her familiar position in college, Averill has been getting the hang of a new position in high school.
The longtime defender was converted into a midfielder this season, tasked with bolstering an offense that had lost most of its top scorers to graduation since the Bears last competed in 2019, and her performance Tuesday indicated she's versatile enough to handle the switch.
Averill had a game-high seven goals and two assists to help the Bears roll to a 19-8 win over visiting Frederick.
To put that production into perspective, Averill had six goals and four assists during the last entire season she played for the Bears in 2019. But back then, any offense she provided was a mere bonus.
With scoring machines like Alyssa Wright and Shae Fitzgerald on their roster, the Bears counted on Averill to help anchor the defense, and she did that well enough to earn Frederick News-Post all-county first team honors.
But with the departure of stars like Wright and Fitzgerald, Averill seemed like a logical choice to help fill the void. Even though she had only played midfield sparingly when she was younger, she was a skilled lacrosse player and a well-rounded athlete who played for Oakdale's girls basketball team.
"Gabby's an extremely versatile player," Oakdale co-coach Erika Hollander said. "She's put in so much work in the offseason and all this time we've been waiting to get back to playing, it's just an easy choice to put on her on all parts of the field. She's become a phenomenal player and a huge asset to the team."
With the Bears looking to bounce back from a season-opening loss to Urbana, Averill was involved with eight goals in the first half to help Oakdale storm to a 15-4 halftime lead. She also started out taking draws and finished with three draw controls.
Granted, Averill's transition took some effort. Averill is used to reacting on defense, not initiating the action on offense.
"It's a big switch for me," Averill said. "I was playing defense pretty much all my club career. They needed someone to step in and take a spot at midfield, especially since our older girls graduated that were middles."
The loss of such players is one of several changes traditionally powerful Oakdale has gone through. Beth Nave, who started Oakdale's program in 2010, stepped down after the 2019 season.
But the new coaches are quite familiar with the program and its high standards. Hollander and fellow co-coach Courtney Schwiegerath played for the Bears and later served as Nave's assistants.
Oakdale returns some veterans. Aside from Averill, there are fellow seniors Allison Grunwell, Ella Moore, Taylor Farina and goalie Kailey Bawcombe. Another senior is Jenna Russell, who transferred from Montgomery County and had three goals and two assists on Tuesday.
But there are plenty of newcomers, and this year's team started off with a tough loss to Urbana.
"It's been almost two years since these girls have played in a game. The majority of our girls, this is them seeing either a high school field in general or a varsity game, so we had a lot of that first-game jitters and everything," Hollander said. "But we came out hard today and ready to play and got all that out of the way."
Sophomore McKenna Witt had four goals, and Grunwell had two goals and one assist. Farina had one goal and one assist, while Avery Plate and Paige Overeem each had one goal. Bawcombe had 14 saves.
Frederick goalie Mae Beins also came up with plenty of tough saves. Loghan Lennox led the Cadets (1-1) with three goals. Cedar Shapiro had two goals and one assist, while Ryan Frazier, Camryn Lauret and Nicole Sibold each had one goal.
Frederick only started three players who had played in a varsity game before this season.
"They've been playing well. For us right now, it's just congealing as a team," Cadets coach Brandon Brewbaker said. "When you're young, you're going to make mistakes, but it's about learning."
He said whether there's a goal or turnover, the Cadets just focus on the next play.
"We said coming into this year, we were going to stay positive on everything," Brewbaker said.