Payton breaks Girls Lacrosse six-year City title streak


Ruby Thompson

Lane and Payton players rush to gain possession of a ground ball.

By Mara Mellits

With a minute left of the Girls Lacrosse City Championship it looked like Lane was going to bring home gold for the seventh year in a row. Two goals from the Walter Payton Grizzlies in the final minute made sure that didn’t happen.  

With just 31 seconds to spare, Payton scored, tying the game 6-6. The Grizzlies easily won the draw, and with less than ten seconds left in the game — they scored the final goal of the game, ending Lane’s City Championship run by a score of 7-6.

Lane’s past mistakes during the game caught up with them to rip the first place plaque away on Friday, May 13 at Lane Stadium.

“Today was just not our best day,” Lane’s Head Coach Amanda Malstrom said postgame. 

From the very first minutes of the game, Lane racked up miss after miss on goal, while the Grizzlies, despite attempting fewer shots, proved to be more accurate. A flurry of penalties halted Lane’s ball possession, making it much easier for Payton to shoot and score, and they did. 

One of Lane’s goalies, Hannah Gotelaere, attributes these mistakes to communication. 

“Our biggest problem was communication on both offense and defense. We’ve been working hard all year to work on it,” Gotelaere told The Champion via Direct Message. “Communication is one of the biggest things in lacrosse and I think our nerves just got the best of us.”

As the Grizzlies got a better handle on the ball, the anxiety and stress of the game was apparent on the field. And Payton’s first and then second goal made that even worse. Now Lane was down 2-0 with 15 minutes left in the second half.

After the second goal, Lane brought out their aggression and marched down the field. Attempted shots from Lane’s Kayla Tirado, Allyson Vanna and Abby Yohannes weren’t enough to make it in the goal. These rushed attempts only motivated the Grizzlies. 

“I wish we slowed down our offense to get the defense moving so we could place our shots,” Gotelaere said. 

But then a offhand pass from Yohannes to attacker Eliza McHale led to a goal, and it seemed like there was hope, with ten minutes left in the half. Soon after, Lane won the draw, which turned into another goal from Stella Paulsen.

Those last ten minutes of the first half turned into a back and forth match with Lane playing catch up. 

Down 4-2 with a minute left to spare in the first half, Lane’s draw specialist Kendra O’Keefe won the draw and 20 seconds later got the goal, ending the first half 4-3. 

“Following my first goal I felt ready to immediately go back to the circle and do it again,” O’Keefe told The Champion via direct message. “Gaining momentum was huge in this game and I knew my teammates were ready to turn it around and finish closing the gap.”

O’Keefe kept up her speed and aggression in winning draws, but her time on the field would be limited due to two yellow cards, leading to ejection.

Losing any player puts us at a disadvantage. Nonetheless my teammates stepped up to come back and gain a one point lead, and maintained that lead until the last minute,” O’Keefe said.

She wasn’t the only one — Tirado was given a penalty, and the team was crumbling in the first minutes of the second half. 

Mistakes left and right began to chip away at the offensive power Lane had over Payton.

“I think we just rushed some things throughout the whole game,” Malstrom said. “It wasn’t just one moment; we rushed shots, we rushed passes. And we just didn’t play the clock as best as we could,” Malstrom said. 

Meanwhile for the defense — it wasn’t much different.

“I don’t think we made adjustments quick enough. We knew we could see what was going wrong, but we just couldn’t really execute on shutting it down,” Malstrom said. 

A last-minute attempt from Lane gave them their first lead of the night with only five minutes of the game left, but the lead wouldn’t stick, and the Grizzlies took home the city title.

Lane has their last regular season game of the year on May 16 at Marist High School. They then look ahead to state playoffs.

“They have the ability to come back and make some waves at state,” Malstrom said. “So this one’s gonna sting for a little while, but I’m pretty confident that they’ll pick themselves back up, and this will be the greatest motivator.”