photo via StAugustine.Com and Gary McCullogh
The best lacrosse story of the season ended with Bartram Trail defeating the long-time FHSAA defending champion Vero Beach 8-7 in OT yesterday afternoon as Alexis Marcionette scored the game winner with 7 seconds left in the first overtime period.
For those, including me, who aren’t as attuned to the Girls season we need to take a step back and look what was accomplished here.
Last year Bartram’s district rival, Ponte Vedra, went to the FHSAA final, losing to Vero by a couple of goals and PV was returning much of their starting lineup. During the season PV went 14-3, with the losses to #1 ranked McDonogh (Md), Walton (GA.) and a one goal loss to Lake Highland Prep. The regular season win over Bartram Trail was by 21-14. A four goal road win over Final Four member Olympia and wins against Final Four American Heritage-Delray and St. Thomas Aquinas. A heck of a body of work. Easily a Top 5 if not Top 3 in the state going into the district tourney.
Bartram Trail went 12-6 and the losses were to Georgia schools, Vero, LHP, St. Thomas and PV. The only signature win was an easy one over Bishop Moore, the team that shocked Vero earlier in the season.
In other words . . . there was nothing in the season where you would have thought PV wasn’t headed back to the playoffs.
But the unthinkable happened and Bartram was able to completely turn around the first game, holding PV to only 7 goals in a 10-7 stunner and on to the brackets they went.
They made quick work of Matanzas, Oviedo and Oak Hall and they were back in the Final Four for the first time since 2013, when they were dominated in the final by Vero 17-3, the first Girls’ game I ever covered for FLN.
The game against Olympia went badly at the start and they found themselves down 3 with just 6 minutes to go after Olympia had scored. In most Girls’ games, without a shot clock, that becomes a very difficult obstacle to overcome. But midnight was still a number of hours away.
Lauren Tybor, Mya Watson and Marcionette stepped up and with 2:10 left Bartram had tied the game up with a furious rally.
And with 1:45 left Marcionette scored the go ahead goal and after a couple of crease side Chloe Zador saves the Chariot ride to the finals appeared.
And awaiting on the other side of the field was the dominant power of Florida lacrosse, the Vero Beach Indians, winner of 10 straight championships. The gap had narrowed significantly last year as both Ponte Vedra and Barron Collier had given them a serious run last year in Bradenton. And then February 11th came up on the calendar and the state’s lacrosse fans were awakened the next morning to the shocking result of a soon to be 7-6 Bishop Moore team ending the in-state winning record of over 140 straight games and tongues started to wag about maybe this year would be different.
A miracle is sometimes described as a divine intervention for a brief moment of time until things come back to normal and it certainly seemed to be that way as Vero rebounded with 8 straight in-state wins and then their normal slate of out of state powers were split 4 and 3 as they gave #1 McDonogh all they could handle in a 13-8 loss. A run of late season games and the FHSAA playoff games went smoothly and after dispatching of American Heritage-Delray in Vero-like fashion there was no reason to wonder if Vero wasn’t going to be coronated once again. Midnight was coming up quite rapidly.
There might have even been a little complacency about facing a team they had already beaten. Not saying it was there but when you are so used to winning and you are playing someone again after beating them your guard might let down just a little.
After all, for the first time since 2012 the Final Four was being played near your home town and there were certainly large numbers of Vero fans in the stands to buttress your claim.
The game played out about as well as Bartram could have prayed for.
A fast start.
Holding their own at the draw.
Pretty much equal stats.
And with one very big surprise.
A combination of tough defense and uncharacteristically sloppy passing from Vero
And it made an enormous difference.
It’s said the worst thing an underdog can be given is confidence . . .
And Vero gave that yesterday to Bartram in spades.
And then it was too late to turn off the spigot and the trickle turned into a flow . . . and then full throttle
And when that happened Vero had to swim against that current all game long . . . and while they finally caught the current’s source late in the game they never could reach the handle to turn if off.
It all came down to one magical moment
Usually this is where I do the entire game goal by goal.
It really isn’t necessary this time.
The mood was one of Bartram taking the lead early, a goal just 34 seconds in by Tybor and when she followed that with another with 20:46 to go in the first half you started to wonder if maybe divine intervention (DI) was stirring out of its’ sleep.
But Gabby Sposato got one back quickly for Vero and DI turned over in bed.
Bartram got the 2-goal lead back at 15:50 on Watson’s goal but Megan Gorman and Sposato tied it up late and the nap continued.
Marcionette gave Bartram the lead back late in the first and Vero trailed at the half.
Nothing to worry about.
Just clean up the passing and get the intensity going and we’ll get back on track.
But then a key thing occurred.
Vero’s offense failed to ignite.
And Bartram was suddenly in front 6-3 as Marcionette and Watson took advantage and with 17:38 to go DI was wide awake, looking on, seeing if BT needed a hand.
Not the way they were playing defense.
Those who watch Vero a lot know that they are a superb passing team that is built to find off ball cuts for open looks inside.
In the 2013 final I wrote about it . . . and every game since then I saw that same offensive prowess came through.
But Bartram found a way to take that away.
In fact, according to the way I scored the game, Vero did not record one assist ALL GAME.
I’d bet that in their 140+ game streak that had not happened even once.
And that meant everything they scored was earned the hard way, via free re-starts and one on one dodging . . . in other words, unlike Vero lacrosse.
But the heart of a champion is not a fragile one.
And Vero did dig deep as Gorman and Preston Wakeland scored 17 seconds apart to make it 6-5 and DI was staring intently.Some back and forth but Marcionette scored her third at 7:08 to make it 7-5 and the mostly Vero crowd was suddenly being confronted with mortality . . . or shock if you prefer. Think Orlando in 2011 as an SA fan.
But once again the champion got off the canvas and starting throwing back and with 4:59 to go Maddie Ellis made it 7-6 and when Sydney Bracken nailed the shot off the restart with 1:53 left the Vero fans managed to both cheer and exhale at the same time.
And after the draw was won by Vero there was a sense that again the victory would be snatched late but Zador came up with a huge save and the teams ended up with no further scoring and we were going to be treated to our second consecutive OT game in Jupiter after the previous night’s epic masterpiece.
And then divine intervention threw us a curve ball . . . one of those judgment calls that makes reffing the women’s game such a combination of difficulty and head scratching. A yellow card was issued to Bartram’s Watson with 1:52 left in the OT after there was a collision near the middle sideline as two exhausted players couldn’t really react to the stop of play.
And once again the feeling in the crowd was here we go again.
But Bartram was able to stem the offense again and as they cleared the goal was to kill the penalty and maybe get off the last attempt of the first OT.
Sometimes plans take root.
Then the unthinkable happened
And just like that midnight rang.
The magical weekend of lacrosse had given us another chapter.
Bartram Trail’s slipper fit
I suspect that somewhere in the sky above a lacrosse God wearing a DI t-shirt was smiling mischievously as they were turning over in bed . . .
Just like SA before them Vero has set the bar so high that others were forced to raise up to it, because neither was going to come back down to the pack.
There will certainly be future championship games for Vero down the line . . .
But just like SA, it will never be the same again.
For Coach Shannon Dean, his players his program and his fans, a big thank for showing the rest of the state what is possible.
For his seniors, a heart felt hope that not only will you go on to the next level to play, study and grow, but also to understand what you accomplished, not what you didn’t.
And for the Bartram Trail family a hearty congratulation on your great win and best wishes for your futures . . . and a healthy next few months for Coach Meghan Jackowiak as she takes care of an even bigger challenge over the summer!
Girls’ Lacrosse took a major step forward yesterday in Florida.
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