‘So much more than a trophy’

Girls lacrosse team falls short in state championship


Courtesy of Jeff Galloway

The Lady Panthers lacrosse team walks off the field at the end of the A-AAAAA state championship game against the Blessed Trinity Lady Titans. Though they put up a fight, Blessed Trinity was too much of a dominant force to overcome, and the Lady Panthers fell 12-6. This was the first time in the season since early March that the team was not able to overcome a deficit they fell into. Even though they lost, this is the third straight year the Lady Panthers were, at worst, the state runner-up.

Daniel Stackhouse, Sports Editor

Hot on the heels of their hard fought victory against Northview days prior, the Lady Panthers lacrosse team headed to Denmark High School in good spirits. In the A-AAAAA state championship, Starr’s Mill fell short against a powerful Blessed Trinity Lady Titans team 12-6.

In our past games, the girls have been able to overcome those deficits, and they were just struggling with it today.

— head coach Mary Lehman

Offensively, the Lady Panthers struggled. Junior midfielder Emma Grace Hepler led the team with four goals. Junior Hannah Leon and senior Lexi Santiago each had one goal apiece. Santiago also had an assist. 

Leon struggled at the draw, winning only four of 11 and having two draw controls. The team as a whole dropped five passes and caused nine errors that led to turnovers, but they also caused eight turnovers.

“Offensively, I feel like they gave everything they had, [and]the defense gave everything they had,” head coach Mary Lehman said. “It really just came down to execution.”

Blessed Trinity accumulated momentum quickly with two goals within the first eight minutes courtesy of sophomore Carly Coopman and junior Marisa Inoa. Within the 16-minute mark, Santiago blazed across the field to score for Starr’s MIll to get the Lady Panthers on the board. With ten minutes gone, the Panthers were only behind 2-1.

Less than a minute later, Inoa scored her second goal of the day. At the eight-minute mark, sophomore Jillian Pitser extended Blessed Trinity’s lead. Starr’s Mill had no answers until Hepler cut down the deficit with 90 seconds to go in the half. The Lady Titans immediately took back momentum with three goals in the final 70 seconds. After one half, Starr’s Mill trailed 7-2.

Junior Emma Grace Hepler steps around a Blessed Trinity player. Nine seniors will be lost to graduation next year, but 11 juniors will take the helm as seniors for the 2022 season. Hepler led the team with four goals. When she graduates, she will play lacrosse for the United States Army Academy at West Point. (Courtesy of Jeff Galloway)

“Any time the other team starts [with] a lead like that, it does make it difficult [to stay in the game],” Lehman said. “In our past games, the girls have been able to overcome those deficits, and they were just struggling with it today.”

Hepler scored immediately within the first two minutes of the second half, but Titan freshman Clark Hamilton answered back three minutes later. Both teams traded goals around the 18-minute mark, and again at the 13-minute mark. Sophomore Reagan Hart pushed the Lady Titans even further with a goal with ten and a half minutes to go, extending their lead to 11-5.

Sophomore Haden Noyes scored again for Blessed Trinity to move even further with a seven goal lead. Leon got the Panthers on the board right at the two-minute mark. However, the deficit was insurmountable. Blessed Trinity kept the Lady Panthers quiet with the remaining time. At the end, the Lady Titans hoisted the A-AAAAA girls lacrosse championship trophy, defeating the Lady Panthers 12-6.

Although the Lady Panthers fell short, they added another successful season to their newfound legacy as a southside powerhouse. Through the past four seasons, the team made three straight state championship games and won one.

“One thing I really want the girls to understand is that it’s not about just the W’s and the L’s,” Lehman said. “It’s really about these girls learning so many life skills and developing so many relationships that will carry them through life. There’s so many things that come out of a season like this, that it’s so much more than a trophy, and it’s much more valuable than a trophy.”

The Lady Panthers finish their season as the A-AAAAA state runner-up with a final record of 19-3-1. They will lose nine seniors to graduation. In their place, 11 rising seniors will lead the team into the 2022 season.