With 10 goals on the season entering the Division II state final June 1, Leah Richards was not high on the DeSales High School girls lacrosse team’s list of offensive threats.
Still, the senior defender found herself in the middle of what became a huge turning point against Chagrin Falls, scoring with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first half after goalkeeper Carmela Cua saved a free-position shot on the other end as the Stallions took firm control and cruised to an 11-3 win at Ohio Wesleyan.
“Carmela is such a huge part of the team and once she made that save, it got our energy going,” Richards said. “I saw the opportunity going down the field and I decided to take it. From the beginning of the game, we all had really high energy and that just boosted it.”
Sophia Finotti scored five goals and Grace Lensmire scored four in their final high school game to lead DeSales, which won its second state championship in four seasons and 32nd overall.
The Stallions finished 21-1, with their only loss coming against Division I state finalist New Albany, 10-9 on March 16.
With DeSales leading 4-2 late in the first half, Cua stopped Mia Razavi’s shot from free position. The Stallions got possession and took the ball from end to end before Richards got open to make it 5-2.
“The energy shifted a little bit (on Richards’ goal) and we kept the foot on the gas,” coach Joe Finotti said. “We had to do well with our help defense and keep them out of the 8-meter (area). If we did that, we felt like good things would happen.”
DeSales outshot Chagrin Falls 23-13 and held the Tigers without a goal for 19:33 spanning the first and second halves to build an 8-3 lead. Cregan Mee scored her second goal of the game with 11:39 left to break the drought, but Lensmire answered just more than two minutes later to make it 9-3.
Finotti added her final goal 43 seconds later.
The Stallions also defeated Chagrin Falls in the 2016 final. The Tigers, who finished 13-4, recorded their fifth consecutive state runner-up finish.
“We were just excited and motivated to finish it,” said Cua, a sophomore who made seven saves. “I tried my hardest. We had a goal (June 1). One of our senior defenders, Greta (Cargin), reminded me we gave up four goals the last time we played them and so we only wanted to give up four max today. This feels awesome. This has been our goal the whole time to get here. We couldn’t be happier to end the season this way.”