The Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse team relied on a potent offense in winning each of their first 23 games, but defense stole the show in the Division I state final June 2 at Ohio Wesleyan.
The Golden Bears used their speed to limit a New Albany offense that had averaged 13.5 goals per game entering the final to one goal for more than 32 minutes, then used their own offensive outburst to pull away for an 11-5 win to earn their fourth consecutive state championship and ninth overall.
Brooke Smith had four goals - three of which came in the second half - and an assist to lead UA, which completed a perfect 24-0 season. According to coach Wendy Pinta, that was not all Smith contributed June 2.
"She was on fire in the locker room. She was rallying the troops and talking about getting good shots off," Pinta said. "She had great heart and great intensity in the second half. It's been somebody different every game (serving as a leader), but she was very passionate in the locker room and lit a fire under people."
Lauren Farber and Kozar each added two goals for UA and goalkeeper Katie Shrodes made five saves.
The Bears scored each of their first three goals on free position and were stymied several other times by New Albany goalie Catherine Ryan, who made nine saves. UA led 3-1 at halftime, got their first goal of the second half from Farber off a turnover and led 5-1 after a goal by Nina Akins off an assist by Smith with 19 minutes, 31 seconds left.
New Albany got within 5-2 on a free position goal from Chloe Platte before Smith scored twice in 55 seconds and Brenna Smith added a goal with 11:51 left for an 8-2 lead. The Bears held the Eagles scoreless for 9:55 in the second half.
It was only the seventh game all season for UA that was decided by fewer than 10 goals. One of the others also was against New Albany, 12-5 on May 2.
That was the Eagles' only other loss this season.
"We had to push things so hard to start scoring against Catherine because she's such a good goalie," Brooke Smith said. "Things got to us in the beginning and we were forcing some shots without the mentality of 'this is going to go in.'"
The Bears entered the final averaging 16.6 goals and allowing 3.1 per game.
"They rode exceptionally well and that made our defense tired, turning over the ball a few times when you're trying to clear it," New Albany coach Dave Ferguson said. "But we had our looks and opportunities and didn't finish."
UA advanced to the final by defeating Cincinnati Sycamore 18-8 in a semifinal May 30 at Dayton Oakwood. Kileigh Casey scored four of her game-high five goals in the second half, while Brooke Smith had four goals and Farber scored three.
The Bears trailed briefly in the first half at 2-1, and the game was tied at 1, 2, 3 and 4 before Casey picked up a ground ball late in the half and scored to give UA a 5-4 lead.
Farber scored twice in the final 1:18 of the half to make it 7-4 at halftime.
"It's unbelievable doing this four years in a row. It's incredible," Farber said. "Our coaching always got us through. We kept this feeling close to us. That was our motivation. There's no way I ever thought this would happen."