OHSAA girls lacrosse: Watterson wins first state championship
Watterson girls lacrosse coach Eileen Barrett smiled and disputed that the Eagles had Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown right where they wanted them in Saturday's Division II state final at Historic Crew Stadium.
But Watterson has been no stranger to comebacks over the past 10 days, having trailed DeSales by four goals in the second half of the Region 7 final and fending off Cincinnati Indian Hill in a state semifinal Wednesday — winning both games in overtime.
So trailing 3-0 within the first five minutes and 8-5 in the early stages of the second half Saturday ultimately meant little to the Eagles, who used a few technical adjustments and familiar resilience to score the game's final five goals and defeat the Blazers 10-8 for their first championship.
"I told the girls you have to dig deep down," Barrett said. "You’re either gonna win or you’re going to lose this game. We had to put everything we had out there. We didn't panic.
"I’m so grateful. I’m still in shock."
Sophia Monesi dominated on the draw in the second half and scored the game-winning goal with 4:57 to go off a turnover. Barrett also brought in speedy defender Reese Tucker to help pace a unit that forced eight Blazers turnovers in the second half.
"We have a great defense and a great attack and once we come down the field on a fast break, we can settle in and trust our shot placement," Monesi said. "We have great players who know where to be at the right time.
"We were all just ready for this. We came here and showed up and showed out."
Free-position goals from Kaitlyn Sullivan and Meg Newcomb, the first with 14:54 left, started the comeback. Katie Bettendorf's third goal tied it with 9:43 to play, moments after sending a free position shot high, but the Eagles maintained possession.
Monesi's game-winner completed a possession that began with Marie Rudzinski picking up a ground ball deep in Hathaway Brown territory then feeding Gigi Francati, who found Monesi in front.
"Our coaches talked about high pressure and in my head, I knew we had only so many minutes left," Rudzinski said. "The only way to get that ground ball, that check, was by high pressure and I just went for it. … I saw the opportunity and took the risk. It was rewarding."
Avery McClain added an insurance goal from free position with 3:32 left.
Monesi and Newcomb both scored twice for Watterson, which won six of seven draws after halftime and 10 of 19 for the game. Carly Henry also had a goal, and Amelia Brown made five saves.
Miranda Pace's three first-half goals led Hathaway Brown (17-6), which like Watterson was appearing in its first final.
This week provided redemption for the Eagles, who had lost in semifinals each of the past two years.
"Even this morning on the way to the game, it just didn't feel real and it still doesn't," Bettendorf said. "Sometimes we just need a minute to get into our groove, but once we do that and trust each other as much as we do, we can (erase any deficit).
"We told ourselves this was our game and we controlled how our season ends."