Learning curves aren’t supposed to last this long.
Friday’s appearance in the Class C state lacrosse tournament semifinals marked the eighth time in nine years that the girls from Honeoye Falls-Lima made it this far. But for the sixth time they lost, dropping a 10-3 decision to defending state champion Mount Sinai, the downstate team that beat the Cougars in last year’s final, 8-5.
Despite all these trips to the final weekend of the high school season, HF-L will still be chasing its first state crown when practice starts next spring.
“Our hearts hurt right now and we’re disappointed, but the greatest thing about athletics is they prepare you for life,” said 13th-year coach Kevin O’Connell, who started the school’s program.
“What’s most important is we’re all healthy and the sun will come up tomorrow. One thing I’ve held close to my heart with this program is its resiliency. We’ll rebound. We’ll be back and we’ll work hard. That’s what we do at HF-L.”
The final score wasn’t indicative of the tight nature of the game. HF-L trailed just 6-3 with 6½ minutes left. O’Connell pulled his goalie, junior Jessica Mitchell, in the final minutes in attempt to draw even and Mount Sinai tacked on a couple of empty-net goals late.
“I don’t care if we lose by five goals or two goals,” O’Connell said.
His Cougars (12-10) hung with the Mustangs early, as goals by Brittany Chamberlain and Caitlin Muir tied the game at 1 and 2 in the first 14½ minutes. But Mount Sinai took a 5-2 cushion into intermission and continued to stifle the Cougars’ attack through almost all of the second half. Three goals was a season low. HF-L scored five in losses to Rush-Henrietta and Brighton.
Much of Friday’s scoring frustration was due to standout goalie, Hannah Van Middelem. “She’s a stud. She’s outstanding,” said O’Connell, whose team scored 12 or more goals in each of its last five games but managed only one goal over the final 35 minutes.
That came with 6:34 remaining, as Muir connected off a pass by Jill Sullivan. It trimmed HF-L’s deficit to 6-3 and gave the Cougars hope. But Caroline Hoeg scored off a pass by Meaghan Tyrrell, then Tyrrell converted to make it 8-3.
HF-L won semifinal games in 2009, 2012 and last year only to lose tight games in the championship to teams from Section XI. Shoreham-Wading River denied them by scores of 13-11 and 11-9 before last year’s three-goal loss to Mount Sinai.