The Rockford girls lacrosse team claimed their second consecutive berth in the state semifinals by winning the Lansing regional hosted by Lansing Waverly.
The Rams really had their work cut out for them in 2009 with the blind draw for regional pairings. Rockford had to face two top 12 teams in order to advance to the final round.
The first-round opponent, Brighton, started strong against the Rams, trading goals with them in the early going. The Ram offense was stagnant for the first 12 minutes of the game. Senior Captain Michon Moline took over and began to light up the scoreboard as the Rams put a flurry of goals in the net to take a 13-6 halftime lead. Seven was the lucky number for the night, with seven Rams scoring goals and Moline netting a team high seven. Defensively, Lexi O’Connor and Alyssa Neumen continued their strong play, protecting goalkeeper Gabrielle Twiest.
Twiest had 13 saves in the game. Andi Raymond and Meagan Emery each added three goals, with Raymond contributing six assists.
The victory set up a showdown with Ann Arbor Pioneer, who the Rams had played previously and barely escaped with a 6-3 win. The re-match proved to be a different contest than the first, as the Rams scored nine unanswered goals midway through the first half to open up a huge margin.
Leading 17-6 at the half, the coaches substituted freely in the second half making sure all the girls got a taste of regional action. Coach Neerken noted, “That was the best total team effort of the year. We had nine girls score goals, and everyone was involved in the offense and defense, moving the ball up the field and cutting off the opportunity for the Pioneer offense.”
Raymond and Emery led with six goals each, Kelsei Streeter added three off the bench, and Taylor Balch, Taylor Hiner, Julie Berta, Moline, Abbey Neerken and Roxy Rosema all
scored for the Rams. The Rams were dominant on the draw with Raymond, Emery, Rosema and O’Connor confusing the Pioneers off the whistle and claiming 18 center draws.
The finals pitted Rockford against Lansing Waverly on the Warriors’ home field. However, the Rams are very comfortable in Lansing, as they have now played seven games on that field over the last two seasons-the first six were Rockford victories. The seventh was their greatest challenge yet.
Battling a scrappy Waverly defense who had prepared for Rockford by practicing against their boys team for two days, and the scheduling nightmare of having prom fall on the same day, the Rams came out flat. Waverly scored the first goal of the game and never trailed until the final eight minutes.
The Rams seemed out of sync and fell behind 6-3 at the half. Back up goalie Sydney Gray, playing due to a penalty, kept the Rams in the game.
After a heated half-time pep talk from the coaching staff, the Rams came out hard and controlled the ball early in the second half, but could not solve the Warrior defense. The Warriors built an 8-4 lead. Rockford coaches Emery and Neerken called their final time-out and made several substitutions.
“At that point while we had some strategies to employ to get the ball past that defense,” said Coach Emergy. “What happened then was all heart. Our team has a heart a mile wide, and we saw it from our captains. They took control of the game. Moline, Rosema and Raymond would not be denied.”
The Rams went on a scoring spree with three goals in one-and-a-half minutes to close the gap. Raymond and Rosema each tallied two to tie the game. Waverly would not let down and soon the Warriors had recaptured the lead, 10-9.
Raymond broke down the defense twice to draw fouls and get free shots on the goalie. She converted both and, with four minutes on the clock, the Rams had an 11-10 lead.
“Four minutes in girls lacrosse is an eternity, especially with the clock stopping on all whistles in the last two minutes of the game,” stated the Rams’ coaching staff. “We began to use as much clock as we could.”
Rockford’s defense stepped up to the occasion, stopping three rushes by the Warrior offense. Neerken made an acrobatic save of a pass headed for an open Waverly player right in front of the goal. It ended up being the defensive play of the game, as the Rams held on and killed the clock to win their second consecutive title and seventh game in a row at Waverly.
Leading the Rams in scoring in the tournament were Raymond with 14 goals, Emery with 11 goals, Moline with eight, Streeter with five, and Neerken and Rosema with four each.
The Rams advance to the semifinal game Wednesday, June 3 at South Lyon against Birmingham Seaholm, the 2008 Division I champion.