Rockford dug a 4-0 hole against a solid Birmingham United team in its quest for a fourth straight Division 1 lacrosse title Saturday at Brighton High School.
“We’ve been worse; we went down to Chicago and were down 6-0 and came back and won,’’ said senior captain Ryann Deuel. “We never really gave up. We weren’t going to let anything stop us.’’
United’s Anna Stachler tried to make something happen with seven goals, but the Rams regrouped in the second half and pulled away for a 12-9 victory.
“To be honest I don’t think we’ve gone into halftime losing all season,’’ said Deuel, who scored the final goal. “We knew we needed to change things up. We came out with energy. We knew we had the momentum.’’
The defending champs finally tied the match with 16:22 left in the second half on a goal by senior captain Alex Vander Molen to make it 7-7.
Stachler scored her sixth goal of the game to give the Bulldogs a one-goal advantage.
“She’s been a huge goal scorer for us all season,’’ coach Jen Dunbar said of Stachler. “She stepped up. She took charge. (Goalie) K.J. (Blumberg) had a phenomenal game. It was her best game all season. It could’ve went either way. We threw everything we had at them. I can’t pick apart any of our game. I thought we played great.
Mekenzie Vander Molen scored to tie the game at 8-8 with 10:27 left to play.
Stachler responded again with 9:29 to play with her seventh goal to give the Bulldogs a 9-8 lead.
Vander Molen tied it for Rockford at 9-9 with her second goal of the game and made it a hat trick with her third with 4:50 left to give the Rams a 10-9 lead.
“I’ve learned a lot from my sister (Alex),’’ said Mekenzie. “She told me she was very proud of me. I was able to get better passes and better looks in the second half. Getting four is amazing.’’
Seizing the momentum, Grace Gunneson scored her third goal of the game with 4:02 left to give the defending champs an 11-9 advantage.
Rockford rumbled in as the three-time defending champs along with a title in 2010. Birmingham United had built an impressive list of titles itself with championships in 2012, and 2007 through 2009.
United started aggressively with goals coming two minutes apart by Stachler and Danielle Augier to make it 2-0.
Stachler tacked on her second of the game to make it 3-0 at 20:25 as the Bulldogs were digging an early hole.
Blumberg was phenomenal in the early-going, making four spectacular saves to keep the Rams off the boards.
Stachler made it a hat trick with her third goal of the game as she took advantage of Rams’ goalie Briana Houle being too far away from the net to make it 4-0.
Mike Emery was forced to call a timeout to regroup the troops.
Rockford finally scored on a goal by sophomore Mekenzie Vandermolen to trim the deficit to 4-1.
Gunneson made it 4-2 with a goal at the 8:56 mark with United a player down because of penalty.
Junior Sisely Vongphasouk made it 4-3 as the Rams were assuming momentum.
United ended the Rams three-goal streak with one of its own by Jenna Bazil to go ahead 5-3.
Stachler’s fourth goal of the first period made it 6-3. Gunneson scored her second to make it 6-4 with 4:26 left before intermission.
Rockford made it 6-5 on a goal by sophomore Hannah Tompkins as the half ended with United up a goal.
Stachler and Karrington Vandermolen traded goals early in the second to make it 7-6.
“We knew early on we thought this would be the matchup when we saw the way the brackets were laid out,’’ said Emery. “They took it to us, but our girls are really battled tested. After that 4-0 run they went on we held our own.’’
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.