The Rockford girls lacrosse team claimed their first Division 1 state title Saturday defeating the Brighton Bulldogs 19-11 in front of a sea of orange clad Ram fans. The rams had an exciting week with 10 seniors on the squad graduating. Tuesday,playing a semi-final Thursday and winning it all Saturday bringing the d-1 title out of the metro Detroit area for the first time ever.
In order to earn their first trip to the title game the Rams had to defeat a well coached aggressive squad from Grosse Point South. The squad from Grosse Point led by Senior All-State player Katherine Palms gave the lady rams all they could handle ending the first half deadlocked at 4.
Grosse Point came out strong again at the half and took a short 5-4 lead before the ram defense and the scoring of seniors Meagan Emery and Andi Raymond took over. The rams scored nine unanswered goals to run away at the end and celebrate their hard earned victory after falling the last two years in the semi-final game to the eventual state champion.
Defensively the heart of a champion showed up in the form of a wall that could not be penetrated late in the game by Grosse Point. Seniors Abbey Neerken, Caliegh Christensen, Jill Fowle, Kelly McCabe and Lexi O’Connor continually turned back the opposing attack at mid-field. The Rams offense led by Raymond with four goals and four assists and Emery with four goals and two assists feasted on the opportunities created by the defense.
The Rockford Coaching staff of Mike Emery and Jeff Neerken stated that “our defense was the key. We worked on it all year and those girls in the back really came through tonight as they have all season. We really got over the hump tonight and the girls believe in themselves.”
The Rams continued the celebration right from the opening whistle in the finals. They never trailed Brighton as Kelsei Streeter put the game away at half-time by scoring three goals in under a minute as the half ended moving the ram lead to 12-7. Offensively the clock became an ally to the rams and they strategically took time off the clock by slowing down their offense. Twice the rams caused a running clock by going up by 10 goals. Brighton played a strong game but the could run with the speed and conditioning of our ram girls. It was evident throughout the 2nd half. Goalie Sydney Gray played the best game of her career with nine first half saves and 11 for the game.
Ram seniors Raymond, Emery, Neerken, O’Connor, McCabe, Fowle, Streeter, Christensen and Taylor Hiner have played together as a group coached by Emery and Neerken every year since seventh grade. As a group they had a goal ever since that time in middle school to win a championship together and in their last appearance as rams they made it happen! it truly was a team effort and all the rams could be featured for their play in the final games of the season.
Against Brighton they were led by Andi Raymond with four goals, Kelsei Streeter with four, Erica Neumen wih three, Lexi O’Connor with two, Taylor Balch with two, and Taylor Hiner, Alyssa Neumen and Carly dew each tallied a goal. Defensively Lexi O’Connor, Caleigh Christensen, Kelli Raymond, Abbey Neerken, and the duo of McCabe and Fowle frustrated the bulldogs the entire 2nd half. Coach neerken stated that this victory is sweet! For Mike and I to be able to do this with these girls and our daughters is incredible. Today they learned they can accomplish anything they set their mind to. We had many challenges this year but the girls stayed focused on our goals.”
The seniors have earned 2 conference championships, 3 regional titles and a state championship in the 4 years lacrosse has been a sanctioned varsity sport.