A few Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse players weren't sure last week why they had won their first three postseason games by a combined score of 63-10.

A few Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse players weren't sure last week why they had won their first three postseason games by a combined score of 63-10.

Was it simply because the Golden Bears were that much better than their opponents, or because they have hit their peak at the right time?

"I think it's just improvement throughout the whole team," junior goalkeeper Hannah Panos said, crediting a defense that has allowed an average of 6.8 goals through 16 games. "One of the things I'm most impressed with is when the opponent gets low in the crease, we're able to crash in on them and that really limits their shots."

Two more stout defensive efforts might give UA its first Division I state championship since 2008. The Bears, who have lost in the state final each of the past four seasons, face Massillon Jackson in a state semifinal at 5:15 p.m. Friday, May 31, at New Albany.

UA, which is 14-2, hasn't been threatened in the postseason. The Bears defeated Gahanna 23-3 in the second round of the Division I South/Central Region tournament May 15, beat Cincinnati St. Ursula 20-4 in a regional semifinal May 20 and eased past Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame 23-3 in a regional final May 23.

Sophomore defender Molly Plasket had a team-high five goals, senior attacker Samantha Farwick scored four and senior attacker Sydney Farwick added three against Mount Notre Dame, as UA scored 20 or more goals for the fifth time this season.

But the Bears give just as much credit to their defense, which has allowed more than nine goals only once in the last 12 games. During that same span, UA has held its opponents to four or fewer goals seven times.

Senior defender Carly Tovell said sophomore Caroline Buse and senior Macauley Mikes are the team's defensive leaders.

"Our double teams have helped us force a lot of turnovers," Tovell said. "Caroline Buse has definitely been instrumental. So has Macauley Mikes. She's started to play some offense this year, but she's a really good defender we've had for a while."

Buse downplayed her contributions, attributing UA's stronger defensive play to an awareness of its situation.

"As we got closer to (the) state (tournament), everyone has gotten going and, the more we play, the more we have that drive," she said. "We really know what a big deal this is. Everyone is very excited."

Senior midfielder/defender Nicole Stines has 43 goals and 43 assists for a team-high 86 points, followed by Samantha Farwick (45 goals, 24 assists), Sydney Farwick (47 goals, 16 assists) and Plasket (28 goals, 8 assists).

UA and Jackson have had only one common opponent this season in defending Division II state champion Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown, which defeated Jackson 9-5 on April 6 but lost the Bears 7-4 in the Cleveland Heights Invitational on April 27.

The semifinal winner will play Cincinnati Sycamore or three-time defending state champion Medina in the state final at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at Thomas Worthington.

UA lost to Medina in the past three state finals, falling 10-9 last season, 14-13 in overtime in 2011 and 15-9 in 2010. The Bears lost to the Bees 7-4 in the Cleveland Heights Invitational on April 27, getting three goals from Sydney Farwick.

On May 3, UA defeated Sycamore 12-9, as Samantha Farwick had five goals, Sydney Farwick scored three and Panos had 14 saves.

The Bears weren't shocked to see Medina reach a state semifinal and, if they advance to the state final, they fully anticipate a rematch.

"No surprise," junior attacker Olivia Achatz said. "We're ready to win our state title back from those Medina Bees."