Rockford went up against local rival Catholic Central at Aquinas College Wednesday, May 13 in a battle for the first-ever OK girls lacrosse title. Earlier in the season, Rockford had lost 4-3 at home on senior night. The Rams hoped to return the favor on the Cougars’ senior night as they sought a share of the title.
The two teams always bring out the best in each other, and this game was no exception. The teams slugged it out in the first half to end tied at 2-2. Rockford had scored first and the Cougars battled back to tie the game.
Rockford’s defense, led by Lexi O’Connor, smothered the ball and prevented the Cougars from getting their offense untracked. O’Connor and her defensive teammates Alyssa Neumen, Roxy Rosema, Kelly McCabe and Taylor Balch seemed to be everywhere, drawing charges, picking up loose balls, and creating turnovers.
The Rams, behind the potent one-two punch of Andi Raymond and Meagan Emery, took a 5-3 lead late in the half. Abbey Neerken also added a goal for the Rams. The Cougars showed heart and were able to tie the game at 5-5 with six minutes left. At 4:08 on the clock, Rockford suffered a penalty by trying to stop a breakaway, resulting in the Rams playing shorthanded for the next three minutes.
Rockford coaches Jeff Neerken and Mike Emery paced the sideline nervously, but the speed of the Rams’ transition game and the scoring of Raymond and Emery took over, as they each tallied a shorthanded goal to put the Rams out front for good, 7-5. The Rams held the ball the final minute and burned up the clock.
Gabby Twiest was excellent in goal for Rockford with 11 saves, excelling in one-on-one situations.
Coach Neerken stated, “I have never been more proud of these kids. Every one of them kept their composure and played as team, even as the Cougars clawed their way back twice. The two teams really bring out the best in each other; we always know it will be a battle. Our defense was incredible tonight. It is an honor to be the co-champion with CC, and to share the first-ever conference title.”
Raymond and Emery have combined for 153 goals for the Rams this season. Making that scoring possible with one of the best transition games in the state are their offensive mates Abbey Neerken, Kelsei Streeter, Roxy Rosema, Taylor Hiner and Michon Moline.
The Rams begin regional play on Wednesday, May 20 against Brighton at Waverly High School.