UA's journey ends with state championship
Even in the wake of his team winning its second consecutive state championship, third title in four years and 14th overall, Upper Arlington High School boys lacrosse coach Ted Wolford wasn't basking in any glory.
After a 7-6 win over Dublin Jerome in the Division I state final June 8 at Marv Moorehead Stadium, Wolford gave quick hugs to his assistant coaches, posed for some team pictures and lauded both programs' measured approach to success.
UA defeated Jerome by the same score in the 2012 state final.
"The whole thing is a journey," said Wolford, who has guided the Golden Bears to each of their state titles in his 22 seasons leading the program. "It's not just a quick one-step thing. There are bumps in the road no matter where you go. It's a matter of getting back up and continuing your journey and waiting until the end of the year. I give (the players) an awful lot of credit for going hard all the way and getting better. They prepped for this. Hopefully, our kids got better all year as we helped them meet their potential."
Then, Wolford smiled.
"But yeah, it was a pretty darn nice ballgame," he said.
Jerome took a 6-5 lead with 7 minutes, 49 seconds remaining, but senior attacker Zac Stowe tied the game with 4:38 left and junior attacker Cam Marsh scored the winning goal with 2:03 remaining.
"We're two great programs, powerhouses," said senior goalkeeper Jack Warmolts, who made two saves in the final 28 seconds to secure the win. "It's telling we met two years straight in the state final. If you want a state championship, you have to beat the best, and it's a lot of fun coming out here and competing against those guys."
The state final was played on the Bears' home field, where UA won 10 of 11 games this season. The only loss was to Mason, 6-5 on April 26, and the Bears avenged that setback with a 7-5 win in a state semifinal June 5 at Centerville.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to be able to play on our home field and play as a team and win this title," said Marsh, who ranked sixth on the team with 14 goals. "You can never overlook a program like Jerome. ... We had to expect everything they could throw at us. When we play in the state final, it'll always be a competition."
UA finished 20-2 overall and went 6-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to reclaim the title from 2012 champion Jerome. Worthington Kilbourne (5-1) was second in the league, followed by Jerome (4-2), Thomas Worthington (3-3), Dublin Coffman (2-4), Hilliard Davidson (1-5) and Dublin Scioto (0-6).
The Bears outscored their league opponents 72-17.
UA earned the top seed in the Central Region tournament, opening with a 15-2 win over visiting Westerville North on May 24. It defeated visiting Thomas in a second-round game May 29 and Kilbourne 7-5 in the regional final June 1 at home before beating Mason.
The Bears' only other loss was to Culver (Ind.) Academy, 17-5 on May 18 in the North American Lacrosse Invitational at Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice.
UA won another prestigious event, the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Coaches Association Tournament, which was held May 3 and 4 at Thomas. The Bears defeated Cincinnati Moeller 6-5 on May 3 and Brother Rice 9-4 on May 4. Brother Rice went on to win its ninth consecutive state championship in Michigan.
Senior midfielder Gus Ackley (32 goals), senior defender Jake Nolan and Warmolts were named first-team All-American and first-team all-state. Senior defender Brandon Jones also was first-team all-state, and sophomore attacker Justin Wick, who had a team-high 34 goals, was first-team all-region and second-team all-state.
Ackley, Jones, Nolan, Stowe (30 goals), Warmolts, Wick and senior midfielder Grant Gould (21 goals) were first-team all-region, and Marsh and senior defender Joe Cameruca were second-team all-region.
Earning first-team all-league honors were Ackley, Gould, Nolan, Warmolts and Wick. Jones and Stowe were second-team all-league and Cameruca was honorable mention all-league. Warmolts was OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year and Wolford was league Coach of the Year.
Sophomore attacker Jack Pardi (18 goals) and senior midfielder Zach Shy (11 goals) were other key offensive contributors.
Jerome coach A.J. Auld tipped his hat to the Bears after the state final but stopped short of predicting another rematch next year.
"They're the ones who are winning the state championships. We're not on their level, but we're going to keep working hard to get there," Auld said. "Sometimes you get the bounces. You get the bounces when you're a really good program. The guys know where to be, and that's what you get with Upper Arlington."