Legends of Lax- Drawing up Houston Lacrosse History

Houston lacrosse history was made by former Mavericks Hannah Clarke ’09 (Marquette), Eden Epner ’14 (Johns Hopkins), and Clayton Crum ’08 (Team STX) at the first NCAA Division 1 Women’s lacrosse game in Houston on Sunday, February 8 at University of Houston.  
The Marquette Golden Eagles and Johns Hopkins Blue Jays opened their season under sunny skies and mild temperatures at Carl Lewis Field.  Over 650 fans showed up to watch top Division 1 Women's Lacrosse and to witness the first ever Women’s NCAA D1 Lacrosse game played in Houston. 
 
From the opening whistle to the final goal in double overtime, Houston, Marquette, and Johns Hopkins were all winners.
 
Defense was on display for the first seven scoreless minutes before Marquette’s Claire Costanza converted an assist from Amanda Bochniak to take a 1-0 lead.  Hopkins made it 1-1 with a goal from Haley Schweizer at the 15:13 mark, and took the lead minutes later with a score from Dene DiMartino. Marquette answered and tied it up 2-2 on a free position shot from Taylor Smith.  Schweizer gave the Golden Eagles the lead again from a Costanza assist with 5:58 to go in the first half, but it would not last long as Emily Kenul fired an under hand shot to make it 3-3 with 5:36 to go. Team defense prevailed for the rest of the half.  Marquette had a chance for the halftime lead with an open net set shot, but it sailed wide as the half ended.
 
Hopkins came out strong in the second half on goals from Alexis Maffuci and Jenna Reifler (Maffuci). The tempo looked to swing in the Blue Jays favor until Smith got the Golden Eagles within one with 6:05 to go in the game.  Less than two minutes later Emily Donovan knotted the score at 5 all sending the game into overtime.  Hopkins took a quick two goal lead on back to back scores from Kristen Cannon, but Marquette’s Bochniak cut the lead to one and Constanza sent it into double overtime with 18 seconds on the clock. Hopkins’ DiMartino found Maffuci for the game winner to cap off a game of three lead changes, and five ties.
 
Former Mavericks Hannah Clarke ’09 (Marquette), Eden Epner ’14 (Johns Hopkins), and Clayton Crum ’08 (Team STX) were all part of the action.
 
Clarke, the former defender and team captain for William & Mary, is in her first year of NCAA coaching as an assistant coach for the Golden Eagles.  Her role as coach of the defense shined bright under her hometown Houston skies, helping unranked Marquette to an almost upset over 16th ranked Hopkins.  Epner (#14) is a freshman for the Blue Jays.   Crum, a member of Team STX was part of the free clinic following the game.  All three have helped give back to the St. John’s Girls’ and Houston youth programs.  Crum is the varsity assistant and Epner and Clarke have helped with youth teams.
 
"This is such an exciting and historic event for Houston women's lacrosse," said Maverick Girls' Lacrosse Head Coach Angie Kensinger.  "I am so proud of Eden, Hannah and Clayton.  Hannah was St. John's first D1 recruit and helped pave the way for players like Eden. These three former St. John's players are tremendous role models for our current Mavericks.  Through the love of the game and hard work they are living their dreams."
 
“It was amazing playing Marquette in my hometown, and I think bringing this type of high level, competitive play to our area will really help grow the game,” said Epner.
 
In the crowd of approximately 662 fans was Ralph O’Conner, Hopkins ’51, sporting his Blue Jay colors. It was a fitting appearance for O’Conner, who helped orchestrate the first NCAA D1 Men’s game in Houston in 1971. Hopkins played Navy in the Astrodome in front of almost 20,000 fans.
 
“I got Hopkins’ Head Coach Bobby Scott interested and he lined up Navy to come down here to play in Texas,” said O’Conner.  “It was the biggest crowd to watch a game in which they did not know what they were seeing.”
 
During that game the Hopkins starting goalie was sick and was replaced by a freshman, Les Matthews, who not only went on to be an All-American and Hall of Fame player for the Blue Jays, but moved to Houston to attend Baylor Medical School.  According to Dr. Bill Bryan, Matthews was one of the key players in the local lacrosse scene, helping establish interest in the game in Houston in the early 70’s.
 
The footprint for the girls’ game has been ongoing since the 1990’s, and Sunday’s event may have been one of the biggest steps for the future.  After the game Team STX put on a clinic for local youth players.  Crum could feel the excitement from the participants who had just absorbed what could be one of the best games of the 2015 season. 
 
“It honestly gave me chills to see the stands so packed ” said Crum.  “We had 110 girls participate in the STX post game clinic.” 
 
“It was an incredible honor and privilege to be able to participate in the first D1 Women’s game in Houston,” said Coach Clarke.  “Our team (Marquette) played their hearts out and made a statement to the rest of the D1 lax world.  It was exciting being able to represent a school from a non-traditional area for the sport and to prove that we can compete.”
 
On Houston’s first day to host a Women’s NCAA D1 game, while the attendance was not as high as the first Men’s game in the Astrodome, the crowd at Carl Lewis Field knew what they were seeing--tough defense, two overtimes, and a handful of hometown participants who have helped make history and ignite the competitive fires for the future.
 

Sam Chambers - Athletic News 
 
 
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