The Salem High girls never gave up, but they ran out of time and dropped a heart-breaking decision to Riverside in the Class 4 state girls’ lacrosse final at Spartan Field last Saturday morning. The Spartans couldn’t connect on a couple last-minute chances and lost 10-9.
“Overall, I am very pleased with our efforts and I think we definitely proved ourselves,” said Salem coach Maggi Pace. “This has been a historic season for Salem. Conference champs, region champs, and state runner up. It would’ve been wonderful to win, but all the rest makes it feel like a win.”
The game was close all the way as the Spartans made their first trip ever to the state final. Kara Yates scored the third of three straight Spartan goals with about a minute and a half left in the first half to put Salem up 5-3, but the Rams tied it up by intermission. The second goal came on a free shot with just 0.7 seconds remaining on the Spartan Field clock.
Riverside jumped into the lead in the second half, scoring the first three goals to make it 8-5. However, the Spartans came firing back, and when Lilly Blair scored with just over four minutes remaining Salem was down just one goal at 10-9.
The ensuing faceoff was critical, and Riverside was able to come up with the ball. The Rams then played keep-away for over three minutes, passing the ball around the perimeter as precious time ticked away.
“With 4:07 left, it was hard to deal with their stall and the time we could’ve had to score,” said Pace. “I wish we had the shot clock at the high school level strictly for that reason.”
Salem was able to force a turnover with just under a minute to play, and the Spartans had several chances to tie the game. Hope Wimmer was stuffed on a shot right in front of the goal with under 20 seconds to play, then Amber Wright was stripped of the ball with under 10 seconds to play at the crease. Riverside goalie Meghna Dawar came up big time and time again as she matched Salem standout Maddie Bowman for excellence in the cage.
Senior Kara Yates finished with four goals to lead the Spartans. Libby Bowman had two goals and Blair, Madi Caldwell and Alla Daniel had one each. Blair’s goal tied her for second all-time on the Virginia High School League scoring list with 331 career goals in her four varsity seasons.
Blair, Yates and Wimmer each had an assist while Maddie Bowman had seven saves, several at point blank range. The Salem defense created 14 turnovers against a Riverside team that finished the season at 21-2. The Rams were state runnerup in 2018, and they were overjoyed as the final horn sounded at Spartan Field Saturday.
Next year, the Spartans are hoping to take that next step. Salem will lose a strong senior class, many of whom have played together since their days on the youth teams. Seniors who played on this year’s team included Blair, Bowman, Yates, Maggie Crute, Makenzie Redding, Charity Hall and Kennon Rowe.
“It’s going to be hard to watch these seven seniors leave,” said Pace. “Four of them will be playing in college (Kara and Maggie at Lynchburg, Lilly at Roanoke College, and Maddie at Radford University), so it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch those games. The others show great promise in their academic paths and hope that they will keep up their love of the sport with club lacrosse, while also using it as a way to meet people.”
The Spartans finished with a program best-ever record of 19-2. The crowd on Saturday morning was easily the largest ever to watch a girls’ game at SHS.
“A huge thank you to the students, fans, and youth players for coming out and making it a true home field advantage,” said Pace. “Obviously we will have huge holes to fill, especially on defense with four of the seniors playing on that end of the field, but lots of the girls are ready to step up and have their chance.”