It was a game that Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse coach Wendy Pinta and her team might spend a while trying to understand.
The Golden Bears' quest for a second consecutive Division I state championship ended in shocking fashion May 22, as they squandered a seven-goal lead in the second half of a 10-9, double-overtime loss to Mason in a Division I South/Central Region final at Marv Moorehead Stadium.
UA, which finished 12-6 overall, scored 3 minutes, 11 seconds into the second half to stretch its lead to 9-2, but Mason closed the game with eight unanswered goals. The Comets tied the game at 9 with 29.5 seconds remaining in regulation and scored the winning goal with 35.1 seconds left in the second overtime.
Pinta praised the Bears' defense and the play of senior goalkeeper Hannah Panos, who had 11 saves, while trying to figure out how the offense went cold. After scoring its ninth goal, UA managed to get off only five shots during the rest of regulation and both overtimes.
"The defense played the best I've seen them play in three or four years tonight. They were outstanding," Pinta said. "Hannah had the night of her life in goal, and we couldn't convert on attack. We turned over the ball in some critical situations. We were trying to go for a good possession, turned over the ball three times and they scored on all three. I think it was a matter at that point of not being on the game plan."
UA fell short of the state tournament for the first time since 2006 and only the second time since the program's first state title in 2002. The Bears lost in the state final four consecutive years before winning the championship last year.
Senior attacker Carsyn Hager had four goals to lead the Bears, who scored five goals within the game's first 12 minutes and led 7-2 at halftime. Junior midfielder Molly Plasket and Hager each added a goal in the first three minutes of the second half to push the lead to 9-2 before Mason began its comeback.
The Comets scored three goals in a four-minute span to cut their deficit to 9-5. Hager appeared to have scored her fifth goal with 16:15 left to snap Mason's run, but the goal was nullified by a stick violation. A little more than a minute later, Brianna Manns scored the first of her two goals for the Comets to make it 9-6.
Manns' second goal tied the game at 9, and Victoria Blakeman netted the winning goal in overtime.
Blakeman and Ali Specht each had three goals to pace Mason, which advanced to play Medina in a state semifinal Friday, May 30, at Thomas Worthington.
"When we have away games, we seem to need a 10-minute wake-up call for some reason," Mason coach Paul Limpert said. "I've tried a lot of different things and nothing seems to work. They'll spot a team five goals, but they're talented enough to claw back. This team just has a lot of heart and a lot of seniors."
Plasket and senior midfielder Armonde Moore each had two goals and senior midfielder Abby Wilmer added one for the Bears.
UA was the second seed in the South/Central Region tournament behind Cincinnati Sycamore, which defeated the Bears 10-4 on April 25. The contest was a rematch of last year's state final, which the Bears won 14-8.
UA played all of its postseason games at home. It defeated Hilliard Bradley 14-1 in a second-round game May 15 and Pickerington Central 22-10 in a regional semifinal May 19 before falling to Mason.
Plasket had a career-high eight goals against Central.
UA went 4-0 in the OCC-Central Division, finishing ahead of Dublin Coffman (3-1), Thomas Worthington (2-2), Olentangy Liberty (1-3) and Hilliard Davidson (0-4).
Plasket had team-highs of 44 goals, 38 assists and 82 points and was named first-team all-league, all-region and all-state. Moore, a University of Cincinnati signee who had 33 goals and four assists, garnered the same honors.
Senior attacker Olivia Achatz was first-team all-league and all-region, sophomore midfielder Megan Morgan (20 goals, 2 assists) was first-team all-league and second-team all-region and junior defender Erin Eastwood was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-region.
Hager (33 goals, two assists) and junior defender Megan Sengelmann were second-team all-league, and Wilmer (28 goals, 4 assists) was honorable mention all-league.
"We knew we'd have a hard road getting to (a) regional (final), let alone state," Pinta said. "It's a young team. We had five freshmen make varsity and had a sixth swinging up to play in a few games. We had to figure out how we could win games with younger and, to some extent, inexperienced personnel."