Second-half adjustments brought the New Albany High School girls lacrosse team as close as it's ever been to the Division I state championship June 1 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, a five-goal first-half deficit proved too much to overcome against an all-too-familiar nemesis.
After trailing Upper Arlington 8-3 with less than three minutes left in the first half, New Albany got within one with six minutes to play but could not get off a shot the rest of the way and fell to the Golden Bears 12-10 to finish as state runner-up for the second year in a row.
The Eagles also lost to UA in last year's state final, 11-5, and have dropped nine consecutive games to the Bears, who won their fifth consecutive state title, dating to the 2011 season.
"They are definitely a really fast-paced team so if you give them the opportunity to expose you on those 50-50 balls, they will take advantage. That's where we got a little bit beat up," said attacker Emily Rezabek, who had four goals June 1 and finished the season with 90. "After the first half we felt the momentum going their way so we got a hold of ourselves and said 'hey, this is what we have to do.' We had a few plays we implemented over the last few weeks that we were saving for this game and they definitely paid off, but not enough."
UA led 10-6 with 14:25 to go before Blythe Ferguson and Rezabek scored from free position 48 seconds apart to get New Albany within 11-10.
Alyssa Kneedler had scored 37 seconds into the second half to trim the Eagles' deficit to 8-6, and Kneedler and Liz Beckner started their last run with goals to make it 11-8.
Although the Eagles were not able to take a shot after Rezabek's last goal, they limited UA to just one -- that being an insurance goal from Ava Walters with 3:39 to play after the Bears burned more than three minutes off the clock.
UA sealed the win when Jamie Stummer forced a turnover from Liz Beckner with 1:43 to play and maintained possession the rest of the way.
New Albany, which finished 19-4, had 13 turnovers to UA's eight.
"That was just a situation where we had to do everything we could to just crash and get to the ball and get it back," Stummer said. "They just came out stronger (in the second half). They played much better and gave us some problems. They had more chances and our defense had to play smarter and not give them as much shooting space."
Kneedler and Chloe Platte each added two goals for New Albany, which was seeking its first championship since winning in Division II in 2013 and its fifth overall. Goalkeepers Aubrey Bagenstose and Julia Brisk made two saves apiece.
"We're disappointed that we had some good looks in the first half and didn't capitalize but you can't turn the ball over like we did. That hurt," coach Dave Ferguson said. "We gave up a lot more (goals) than we're used to giving up. We got it back together but that first half really hurt. You can't have those mental mistakes. Turnovers (were something) we just had to avoid."
Kneedler and Rezabek each had three goals and two assists in a 13-5 win over Massillon Jackson in a state semifinal May 29 at Wooster. Platte added three goals and Bagenstose made four saves.