Just when Chagrin Falls was on the verge of really blowing open its lead, Hawken School came right back and scored four straight goals during the Division II girls lacrosse regional championship on Friday night in Hudson.
The top-seeded Lady Tigers were chasing their program’s ninth straight state final-four berth, but Hawken senior midfielder Sydney Kates, senior attacker Ari Cohen, sophomore midfielder Heather Arslanian and sophomore attacker Lindsay Milbourn seemed to have other ideas.
That Lady Hawk quartet strung together four tallies to claim a 9-8 lead with 9:30 remaining and all the momentum in the world for an upset.
But the pendulum had been swinging all evening, with five ties and five lead changes before it was all said and done, and the tide was sure to shift again before the final horn.
“Coach (Jim) Newman does a great job with that team, and they were ready to play,” Chagrin Falls second-year head coach Chris Gellin said.
“And it’s just the little things we talk about,” he said. “It’s groundballs, it’s all those things. And we lost sight of that for a while, but we just came up with runs. What’s interesting is that we don’t panic when we’re down. We just make some adjustments and people step up.”
While Chagrin Falls senior attacker Kelly Wynveen had yet to find the back of the net, after she scored an overtime winner against Hathaway Brown in the region semifinals three days earlier, the regional title game was shaping up for another hero shot from her cradle.
When Chagrin Falls and Hawken met in the regular season on April 2, the Lady Tigers sprinted out to a 10-2 lead by intermission, before cruising to a 16-9 victory.
But in the playoff rematch on Friday, it was Hawken that turned the jets on early with a 3-0 lead in the eighth minute of play, thanks to a pair of goals by Arslanian and one by Kates, all of which came off bounce shots against Chagrin Falls second-team all-region senior goalie Celeste Bunker.
After that, Bunker and her defensive unit of seniors Livi Andresen, Lucy Fricke and Avery Houston, and juniors Bella Dalessandro and Katie Kwasny, held Hawken without another goal for the remaining 17 minutes of the half.
“I think the great thing about our defense is that we have so many different things going on and so many different ways that we can play it,” Andresen said. “So, depending on how they’re playing, we can change that. And with our timeout, when they were up, 3-0, we were able to switch it up, see what they were doing and adjust.”
After their timeout, the Lady Tigers went on to score four straight goals to take a 4-3 lead before halftime.
Junior attacker Creagan Mee put Chagrin on the scoreboard when Dalessandro executed a clear to freshman attacker Sarah Burgess, who dished out an assist to Mee in transition.
Less than a minute late, Mee dialed up Razavi on a second-chance opportunity off a missed 8-meter shot to cut the deficit, 3-2, with 12:30 left in the half.
“We’re always looking for those openings whenever we can, and it’s something our team stresses a lot,” Razavi said. “Even if you see it for one second, you’ve got to make that pass, because it could be there one second and then not there the next second. And Creagan (Mee) saw the opening, and I just saw the top corner and buried it.”
Freshman midfielder Peyton Gellin then netted the 3-3 equalizer that initiated from a Bunker save and an Andresen clear to keep the transition game going.
After that, junior middy Anna Gellin made the Lady Hawks pay on a free-position tally against Hawken senior goalie Sadie Jacobson for Chagrin’s first lead of the game, 4-3, with 1:47 to go in the half.
“You know, we’ve been down before, and it was so early in the game that we had plenty of time to come back,” the younger Gellin sister said about overcoming the three-goal deficit. “We always are very calm when we’re down, and even just in general we’re calm during these games. My dad always says we have no emotion.
“So, I think we never put our heads out of the game, we always know there’s time to come back and we’re always totally confident in each other.”
Hawken’s Arslanian, a first-team all-state selection who finished with a game-high five goals, opened the second half with a fake-and-finish tally from the arc, and then a wraparound goal to reclaim a 5-4 lead for the Lady Hawks with 21:23 to play.
But the scoring spree turned back in Chagrin’s favor for four straight goals: a 5-5 equalizer by the younger Gellin; a free-position tally the elder Gellin buried top shelf; a thread-the-needle feed from the elder Gellin to Mee for a finish on the crease; and then another free-position goal by Razavi for an 8-5 lead with 17:37 to play.
That was the moment when Chagrin was on the verge of blowing the game open to secure its ninth straight regional title. And with Razavi’s draws going night and day from the first half to the second half, the Lady Tigers were dominating the possession play.
After going two-of-six from the draw circle in the first half, Razavi went on to dominate nine-of-12 battles in the second half with the Gellin sisters helping out off the wings.
“I feel like we were always putting it exactly where we wanted, but Hawken does have very talented wings too,” Razavi said. “So, we realized with adjusting our wings and putting them where we wanted and kind of getting their wings to move with ours, we could find the open space and I could pull it wherever I wanted and just kind of get it myself.”
While Razavi continued to win draws, the Lady Hawks stormed back with that previously mentioned four-goal spree of their own to take a 9-8 lead with 9:30 to play.
Chagrin’s Bunker made a key save against an 8-meter attempt by Arslanian to keep it a one-goal game with 7:37 to play.
Then a ride by Wynveen forced a Hawken turnover, and the younger Gellin capitalized with the 9-9 equalizer on an 8-meter shot of her own with 4:48 to play.
“The ride is one of our strongest weapons we have,” the younger Gellin said. “We’re super into it and that’s our goal, just to get the ball back. I think all of our attackers do such a good job riding and it makes it really easy on the middies. And once I got the ball, I knew that I had to go to cage and we had to get a goal.”
After Hawken coughed up another failed clear, Wynveen got possession, and, from a restart, she took a beeline to the crease without hesitation and scored the go-ahead tally, 10-9, with 2:18 to play.
The younger Gellin took control of Razavi’s ensuing draw, and the Lady Tigers’ stall offense burned out the remainder of the clock to secure their state final-four berth.
“I think the legacy of us not losing and always being able to go to states every year definitely puts pressure on us at the beginning of the game,” Andresen said. “But also knowing that we have an entire town backing us to get to the state semis and hopefully the state finals helps propel us to keep it going for them.”
While Hawken’s campaign ended at 13-7, Chagrin improved to 12-3 and will play Walsh Jesuit in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Revere High School.
The winner of that game will play either Columbus St. Francis DeSales or Cincinnati Mariemont in the state championship at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ohio Wesleyan’s Selby Stadium in Delaware.