By: Jeff Woods
Kentucky Country Day’s run as the queens of lacrosse continued Thursday night as the Bearcats rallied from a three-goal deficit in the second half to defeat Eastern 7-6 and claim their third straight state championship. It also marks their sixth title overall in the past 12 years.
“If feels good. We showed poise that we haven’t shown all year,” said KCD head coach Pat McAnulty. “They stepped up and when it was on the line they showed a different level. We’ve lost a lot of close games. They (Eastern) have beaten us three times by five goals combined. They just stepped up and showed poise.”
The Bearcats found themselves in a whole the entire first half and trailed 5-3 at the break. Early in the second half, Hayley Ray’s goal stretched the Eagles’ lead to three with 21:06 to play.
“I think we knew we made a lot of mistakes in the first half,” said KCD’s Claire Hamilton. “We knew it was up to us to win the game. We were shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Hamilton started the Bearcats’ surge with 20:31 remaining. Her goal was quickly followed up by Isabella Tacoque’s second score of the night 46 seconds later. Then it was Caroline Anderson’s turn. Her second goal of the night tied the game at 6-6. It took just 65 seconds to erase a three-score deficit. At that point, the momentum was squarely on KCD’s side.
“We could definitely tell,” said Hamilton. “We were getting really excited and they were getting down on themselves. We knew we just had to be smart with the ball and make good choices.”
The Bearcats go-ahead score came with 16:49 to go when Emily Harrison recorded her second goal of the night. Both teams were held scoreless the rest of the way.
“Are you serious? I had no idea,” said McAnulty. “That’s crazy. That just shows defense wins championships. It’s clichéd, but it’s true. They have a great defense too. Wow, just an amazing game.”
For Eastern, the loss is a tough one to take. Not only did the Eagles surrender a three-goal lead, they were also seeking their first state championship.
“I think we just lost some momentum in the second half and against a team like that, you can’t afford to make mistakes,” said Eastern head coach Rylee Huffman. “We just need to take the feelings that we’re feeling right now and bring it back next year because I promise this will be the same matchup again a year from now.
“We’re trending upward and it’s still going to be like that. I think we have good things to look forward to.”
Julia Foster led the Eagles with two goals. Katie Gerber also scored and recorded two assists. Following the contest, Huffman was named co-coach of the year.
On KCD’s side, Hamilton was named Miss Lacrosse. She also earned first-team all-state honors.
“It’s amazing,” said Hamilton. “There are so many great candidates out there. It’s an honor. I’m very excited.”