The third time was the charm for Bishop England girls lacrosse team as the program captured its first-ever state championship with a 6-5 win over Nation Ford at Chapin High School on Saturday.
Bishop England — state runner-up in 2013 and 2015 — got three goals from sophomore Ellie Long and held off a late charge from the Upper State champions.
Senior Rachel Banton added two goals and an assist and sophomore Emma Pizzo scored once.
“This was a true team,” Bishop England coach Jeff Weiner said. “This team truly worked together everyday. We always had someone there to step up. There were no egos on this team. They love each other and they had one common goal. We’ve had better teams in terms of experience and talent. This team was loaded with sophomores and freshmen and they played. This group worked so well together.”
The championship was quite different than what the two teams have been accustomed to playing this season. Both teams came into the finale averaging better than 15 goals per game, with Bishop England leading the state in scoring at 17.8 goals per contest. In the end, the championship was the lowest scoring final game in state history, dating back to 2010.
The first half was a clear defensive struggle with Bishop England maintaining control for most of the opening half. The Bishops opened the scoring on a goal by Long, who took a pass from Banton in front of the goal and delivered the score with 18:04 left in the first half.
Nation Ford answered with two goals – both on free shots after Bishop England fouls. Jaqueline Harris tied the score at one with 17:06 remaining, and Sam McNeil added a score with 15:59 to play.
Bishop England dictated the play for the final 15 minutes of the half. Sophomore Emma Pizzo scored her 98th goal of the season to tie the score at two with 13:58 to play. The score remained 2-2 until late in the half when Banton finally cracked a tough Nation Ford defense, scoring with 1:45 remaining to give Bishop England a 3-2 halftime lead.
“They were double-teaming Emma, sometimes triple teaming,” Weiner said. “We left a few goals out there, hit the pipe three times. But we knew we could win a defensive game. We spend two-thirds of our practice time on defense so we stress the importance of stopping the other team.”
Long made it 4-2 a minute into the second half with her second score of the game. Harris answered for Nation Ford, scoring with 21:12 remaining, but Long scored once again less than a minute later to up the advantage to 5-3.
After a lull in play, Harris ignited Nation Ford with her third score of the game, making it 5-4 with 9:12 to play. Nation Ford continued to pressure and Alexis Walden tied the score with a goal with 8:08 left.
Banton, one of only four seniors on Bishop England’s roster this season, pushed Bishop England back on top, taking advantage of a free shot for a 6-5 lead with 6:35 remaining in the championship.
“It took me four years to do this but I’m so happy I was able to do it with these girls,” Banton said. “It was our goal this year. We knew we had the right chemistry this year. We had amazing seniors and this team worked so well together. It was just a matter of us coming here today and playing well. It’s an incredible feeling to finally win it.”