Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse coach Wendy Pinta admits that she was worried about her team when it trailed New Albany by four goals with 12 minutes, 21 seconds to play May 1.
"We've had a couple games where we just haven't shown up full-force," she said. "In this game, especially when we got down (16-12), I was worried that we might finish out the game in a lackluster fashion like we have a few others. But I like to see my team change the momentum and get angry and have that competitive edge. That was really what won the game."
UA scored six of the game's final seven goals to edge the Eagles, who were the Division II state runners-up last year, 18-17 in an OCC-Buckeye Division game. Senior attacker Samantha Farwick scored the winning goal with 12.5 seconds left after New Albany was called for a penalty, capping her second five-goal performance of the season.
UA, which was state runner-up each of the past four years, entered the week 10-2 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Buckeye. The Bears are hoping to ride the momentum they gained from the come-from-behind victory over the Eagles to June 1, the day when the Division I state final will take place.
While UA had been in close games this season before playing New Albany, it hadn't overcome such a large deficit with so little time remaining.
The primary reason for that is its defense. Excluding the New Albany game, a 15-14 win over Worthington Kilbourne in a league contest April 11 and a 17-13 loss to Marietta (Ga.) Walton on April 6 in the Dogwood Classic in Atlanta, the Bears had allowed an average of 7.2 goals per game entering the week. The defensive unit is led by, among others, seniors Macauley Mikes and Nicole Stines and sophomore Molly Plasket.
Pinta occasionally has moved Mikes and Stines to the midfield, depending on the game situation. Stines has taken advantage of those opportunities, as she scored a career-high five goals against Kilbourne and matched that total in a 21-8 win over Dublin Coffman in a league game May 4. She also had four goals against New Albany.
"I felt like I had to step into a bigger role from last year," Stines said. "We lost some good offensive players (including the top three scorers from a year ago in 2012 graduates Abby Dugger, Sally Holbert and Rachel Marsh, who combined for 139 goals and 86 assists), so I just knew I had some big shoes to fill. There was nothing else I could do besides go into practice and just get better every single day and just go in and try my hardest."
Plasket, whom Pinta lauded for strong play on draws and setting up scoring opportunities, entered the week with 11 goals but prides herself on defense.
"I'm a youngster, but I'm happy to do whatever I can and play whatever I can," Plasket said. "Lacrosse is my thing and I score some goals, but I love assisting my players, setting up plays and helping everyone get the ball and be more effective, both on the attacking end and defensive end."
UA, which would have won the outright OCC-Buckeye championship with a win over Thomas Worthington in its regular-season finale May 7, is the top seed for the Division I South/Central Region tournament and has a first-round bye.
The Bears will play host to Gahanna or Marysville in the second round Wednesday, May 15, with the winner facing Cincinnati St. Ursula, Hilliard Darby, Pickerington North or Watterson in a regional semifinal May 20.
UA lost to Medina 10-9 in the state final a year ago and fell to the Battling Bees in a rematch April 27, losing 7-4 in the Cleveland Heights Invitational. That came hours after the Bears beat defending Division II state champion Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown 7-4.
Pinta believes another deep postseason run is possible if her team avoids lackadaisical play.
"I see them going hard in practices when they're nice and loose, but I don't see it on the field," she said. "We want them to go hard all the time, because they really are very good players."