Mackenzie Chapman attacks the Mercer Island goal during first-half action in the Washington state girls lacrosse championship game. (Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review)

Mackenzie Chapman attacks the Mercer Island goal during first-half action in the Washington state girls lacrosse championship game. (Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review)

Spartans win state title in girls lacrosse

Spartans win historic 10th title

Mackenzie Chapman scanned the crowd; the screaming stream and swirl of overjoyed fans who rushed the field and mobbed the Spartans after Bainbridge beat Mercer Island 10-9 in a nerve-wracking title game for the 2018 Washington State Girls Lacrosse Championship.

“Maggie! Maggie! Where’s Maggie?” Chapman called out through the hugs and high fives.

On the other side of the mass of happy humanity, the two senior Spartans found each other and shared a big hug.

Then came a gusher of laughter mixed with tears.

Champions. And the most titles now of any team, ever, in state girls lacrosse history.

Bainbridge won its 10th state title Friday against Mercer Island in the Spartans’ 20th trip to the championship game, and the first state championship in girls lacrosse since the 2012 team beat Lake Sammamish.

The game was as close as the score indicated, but probably not as close as the two Spartan teammates who had waited for this moment for four years.

“Maggie and I have been playing together since eighth grade,” Chapman said. “And I don’t think I’ve ever been able to see someone on the field as well as her.

“We’ve become best friends through lacrosse, and this is our last game together. So I was going to do whatever I could to find her at the end.

“Absolutely, there was nothing that was going to hold me away from finding her,” Chapman said.

Chapman, a co-captain of the team with Sweeney, shared game MVP honors with fellow Spartan Kendall Havill, who led all scorers in the title contest with four goals.

The celebration at midfield lasted longer than the first half of the game.

But unlike the matchup against Mercer, no one seemed to be watching the clock anymore.

“I told myself my freshman year I wasn’t going to leave this school without a state championship. Now that I have, there’s a little bit off my shoulders,” Chapman said.

Sweeney soaked in the win at midfield with her Spartan sisters, her face wet with tears.

Not filled with the stuff of last year’s loss in the championship final; sadness and regret, but unbridled joy and relief.

“It’s been a really long time,” she said at the close of this, her final game as a Spartan.

What a difference a year has made, and how she felt on this same field last May.

“I didn’t really think about how the other side of it would feel at all. I just think this year’s team is like the best group of people I’ve ever played with; I don’t know what I’d ever do without them,” Sweeney said.

She tried, without success, to wipe away some of her tears.

“I’m still just as emotional; just different emotions,” she said.

Havill scored first for the Spartans, firing a shot past Mercer Island’s Sami Bender just to the right of the goal to give Bainbridge the 1-0 lead with 23:16 on the clock.

“We all just stepped up today and I think that’s huge,” said Abby Reibsamen.

Reibsamen included; she had two goals and three ground balls in the Spartans’ big win.

Her first goal came before the applause had ended after the first Bainbridge score; a strike four seconds later that put the Spartans in front, 2-0, with 23:12 to play in the first half.

“I was running and I was like, ‘OK, I’m open,’” Reibsamen recalled after she got the ball in front of the MI goal.

“Then I calmed down and was like, what are we going to do next, like, what am I going to do? I just moved her [the Mercer defender] and went in and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it! We’re in it!”

“It was a huge, crazy experience and I’m so excited. Last year, I didn’t even step on the field during state, and it was a huge opportunity for me and it was a huge opportunity for my team,” Reibsamen said.

“I think we all just improved so much this year,” she added. “Last year, our emphasis was ‘Strive Together’ and I think this year we really did strive together and push through. It was amazing, overall.”

Reibsamen was one of five Spartans to score against MI.

But Bainbridge needed to spread the offense around, given the Islanders’ defensive focus on Chapman, the Spartans’ scoring machine who had amassed 85 goals this season before the championship game.

Bainbridge was up 3-0 before Mercer started to challenge, with Grace Fujinaga finding the first goal for MI following a Bainbridge penalty at the 16:21 mark.

Mercer would tie the game at 3-3 less than eight minutes later, and Bainbridge struggled to stay in front as Mercer’s methodical attack on the offensive end chewed up the clock in the first half.

With the score 7-4 at the halftime break, Bainbridge knew some adjustments were needed to preserve the lead in the score-streaky game of lacrosse and bring home the trophy.

“We tried a lot of different things at the draw to go against what they were doing,” said Spartan Coach Tami Tommila. “They had a good game plan and some of our kids were struggling a little bit, but then other people stepped up.

“We said all along, at the start of the season, defense wins championships. And that’s exactly why we won this — because our defense shut that down.

“We couldn’t have planned that any better.”

The Islanders tied the game at 8-all with a goal by Katie Brodsky with 9:49 to play, and it looked like the game would be decided by who had the ball last.

It was; Bainbridge retained possession with about 30 seconds left to play and turned Mercer’s pass-happy strategy back against them to run out the clock for the win.

Along with MVP honors for Havill and Chapman, Coach Tommila was named Coach of the Year.

One of the player’s parents stopped Tommila to share greetings of “great job” before the coach stepped off the field. Congratulations came with a question, though. Did she get a few gray hairs tonight?

“Tons of them,” Tommila said.

“I think our younger players helped our older players today,” Tommila said.

“They put arguably their best player, [Fujinaga], on Mac, and we knew that they would faceguard her. What we were betting on was that our younger players would score some goals for us tonight. And they did,” Tommila said.

“That was probably the key, and just riding it out. Mercer plays a real slow tempo attack. And then you just have to bide your time.”

That plodding approach can work one of two ways, she added.

“Part of the slow attack is — it takes time off the clock. So it can be a good thing or a bad thing,” she said. “It’s a good if you’re winning, like if you’re up in the game. But I thought their strategy … they still got some successful goals when they needed them.”

Late penalties on both sides helped the Spartans, Tommila added.

“We capitalized when [Emma] Brodsky got a yellow card and we were able to score a goal so that helped give us a little bit of a buffer,” Tommila said. “And we were able to just wear out a little more time, which is what we wanted to do.

“But, hat’s off to Mercer,” she added. “Because they were literally inches from tying it and anything could have happened, just like in the last semifinal game that they played the other day.”

The timeouts were well-called, she said, and Tommila even saw silver along the sideline, as Chapman was sent out of the game on a penalty in the final moments of the contest.

That pause kept Mercer off track.

“That kept stopping the momentum,” Tommila said. “It was probably the smartest yellow card she’s ever gotten.”

This year’s coaching strategy was a bit different for Bainbridge.

This time, there were no cute kittens, adorable puppies or rainbow unicorns.

Before last year’s championship matchup, Tommila and her coaching staff handed out small stickers with feel-good pictures, and told the players to put them on their lacrosse sticks.

If they felt like they were in a funk, look at the sticker and shake yourself out, the coach said at the time.

This year, they tackled their pre-game jitters head on with some straight talk in the huddle.

“We just had a really good talk,” Tommila said.

It worked.

“Tami always tells us to play with the ebb and flow of the game,” Sweeney said. “I know that we were all a little nervous, because that’s exactly what happened last year.”

This year’s doubts were erased by the confidence they had in each other, she said.

“Everyone was there together, and I think we just pulled through because we weren’t playing individually at all. Everyone was there for everyone.

“Tami couldn’t have prepared us better for that game,” Sweeney added. “We watched so much film. She studied the game for days and told us exactly what we needed to know, like during those timeouts, she would tell us not only what we were physically going to do but how to get it out of our heads, how to reset ourselves, how to not freak out.”

One of the players needing a reboot was goalie Thuy Ortiz, still seeing the specter of last year’s loss.

“Pregame jitters,” Ortiz said of her sour look on the sidelines before the start of the game.

“I was just looking back at last year’s game and how I felt like I let my team down, and I didn’t want it to happen again,” she said.

One of the coaches, she said, told her to “just turn the channel.”

“This is something new. Don’t look back, or else it’s going to keep holding you back,” Ortiz recalled.

There were tears in her eyes, too.

“I’m just so full of joy. There’s not a better feeling than doing this.

“I’m just so grateful that my team was so strong and was able to support us. That was our main goal this season; I’m glad that we carried it through. I couldn’t ask for a better team at all,” she said.

Ortiz wasn’t alone.

“I’m just super, super happy,” added Eleanor King, who scored twice for BHS in the win.

“We all have been working so hard just to be here. I’m just so happy for everyone, and so proud of everyone. It’s awesome,” she said.

The Spartans other goals came from Bella Jackson, who contributed one, and Havill, who added four.

“And we just knew what we had to do; try to execute and play our hearts out,” Havill said.

“We all came to play. I knew I came with a good mindset; saying I know what I have to do, I know what my team has to do. We all have to work together and bring home the trophy — which is what we did,” Havill said.

The Spartans wouldn’t be at the championship without Bainbridge behind them, the coach said.

“This team is a reflection of the Bainbridge Island community,” Tommila said.

“They are here and have the success because all of the support you see; so we’re grateful to everyone and grateful to the school for letting us be a part of the high school and being supportive of our program.

“We know the magnitude of bringing home a state championship, regardless of whether it’s lacrosse or swimming or soccer. We’re a proud community, so were relay happy that we could be part of that.”

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