In the two most important games of the season, the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team found itself trailing in the second half.
Yet the Eagles reign as Division II state champions for the first time since 2009, thanks largely to a measured but aggressive offensive attack and a freshman goalkeeper who didn't start either game.
New Albany erased a five-goal deficit to defeat Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 19-17 in a state semifinal May 31 at Thomas Worthington, and in the championship game June 1 at Thomas trailed Worthington Kilbourne by four goals with 21 minutes, 21 seconds to play but outscored the Wolves 6-1 from there to win 11-10.
Junior attacker Abby Manning scored the title-winning goal with 1:33 to play, biding her time behind the net before sneaking a shot to the left of Kilbourne senior goalie Alex Malone. A blocking penalty moments later on the Wolves helped the Eagles run out the final minute.
"A Kilbourne defender came behind the goal, and I just went around and ended up falling on the ground, but the ball was in the goal," Manning said. "I faked real fast to the left and tucked the ball in there."
Senior attacker Elaina Enich had four goals and Manning scored three for the Eagles, who finished 15-4-1. Senior attacker Morgan Fee added two, including the equalizer with 5:13 to play, and contributed by winning several draws after halftime. New Albany also defeated Kilbourne 13-12 in an OCC-Buckeye Division game May 7.
"They never give up," coach Dave Ferguson said. "Any game, any situation, they get behind by a few goals, whatever, they keep battling. Our senior leadership, I am so proud of them. Then you have the other girls who have stepped up in key situations (like) Abby Manning and Liza Hernandez (a freshman attacker who scored June 1), just what an outstanding effort."
Kilbourne, which finished 17-4, led 9-5 early in the second half, but for the second consecutive game, Ferguson subbed out sophomore starting goalie Madison Schell in favor of freshman Grace Anthony. She came in with five minutes to play in the first half against Hathaway Brown, a game the Eagles trailed 13-8 early in the second half, and against Kilbourne made seven saves to help turn the tide.
"I absolutely always have to be ready," Anthony said. "When I get into the net, that's my home. I get into the zone and I am ready to go. It was definitely very nerve-racking, but I was really happy to get the chance to contribute and help lift my team."
Enich scored six goals and Fee had three against Hathaway Brown, which led 13-8 before New Albany scored five times in 4:36. Enich tied the game with 14:43 to go, and Hernandez put the Eagles ahead for good with 12:10 left.