In a battle of the state’s top two ranked teams, No. 1 Sacred Heart held off visiting Kentucky Country Day 8-6 Thursday night in the lacrosse state final.
The Valkyries (23-1), losers only to The Houston School in Memphis, Tenn., this season, took control with a 5-1 lead in the first half as five players scored in the first 25 minutes.
“We wanted to dictate tempo,” said Sacred Heart coach Brandon Davis. “We do pretty well when we push it, so that was the game plan.”
With less than 10 minutes left, Sacred Heart still led 7-3.
“They’re a good team,” said KCD coach Patrick McAnulty. “They got out on the fast break, which is their specialty.”
Then the second-ranked Bearcats (17-5), the defending state champions, made a late push.
KCD scored two goals — from Sarah Grissom and Kelsey Gill — in a span of just 11 seconds.
“We pulled the reins back and played a little more cautious,” Davis said. “That’s when we let them back in.”
After a three-second violation, the Bearcats took advantage and Rachel Hirsch fired one in from close range, cutting the Sacred Heart cushion to 7-6 with 6:42 left.
The Valkyries came right back and gave themselves some breathing room as Rachael Schmetzer scored on a penalty shot at the 6:04 mark to make it 8-6.
“I knew I had to go quickly,” Schmetzer said about her second goal. “It went in and it was my biggest moment.”
Sacred Heart goalie Mary Alyce Furlong, a sophomore, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“We came together and we just talked,” Furlong said about KCD cutting the lead to 7-6. “We said we couldn’t let them score any more goals.”
Davis applauded his team for stopping the comeback.
“That’s the best reaction I’ve ever seen a team have in stopping a rally,” the Sacred Heart coach said. “The girls did a great job.”
Furlong said she was surprised to earn MVP honors.
“I didn’t even hear them call my name,” she said. “I was so surprised. I wasn’t expecting it. … Everybody out there deserved it. It is such an honor.”
Davis said of Furlong: “She’s so quiet. She’s so unassuming. She doesn’t realize how good she actually is.”
“It came down to the two top teams,” McAnulty said. “They outplayed us. They deserved to win.”
* Bearcats’ Scinta honored: KCD’s Emily Scinta was named Miss Kentucky Lacrosse.
Sacred Heart 8 (Rachael Schmetzer 2, Hannah Hardy, Maria Lenhardt, Katherine Halbleib, Sydney Flynn, Lisa Niblock, Lexi Hemker), Kentucky Country Day 6 (Sarah Grissom 2, Elise Ferguson, Ellen Resinger, Kelsey Gill, Rachel Hirsch).