Lenape hangs tough with Ridgewood in state final loss

UNION, N.J. - The final minutes of the game, the curtain call for one of the best Lenape girls' lacrosse teams ever, were fitting.

The Indians didn't pay attention to the score - or the odds stacked against them. They just never stopped fighting.

"These players showed so much heart today," coach Jill McCarthy said Saturday after an 11-9 loss to Ridgewood in the Group 4 championship at Kean University.

"We never gave up, we believed in each other. And that's what carried us to where we are - everything we do is about competition and heart and doing it until the very end - and that was evident today. I just couldn't be prouder of this team."

The Indians gave the top-ranked team in the state - a team that is 23-0 and actually beat Moorestown earlier this year - all it could handle.

Lenape scored the final three goals and had momentum when time ran out.

Despite the loss, the game was evidence of Lenape's rise into one of the state's top-tier lacrosse programs.

The Indians won the state championship last year. And this was the first time in school history that Lenape won back-to-back South Jersey titles in girls' lacrosse.

"This season has been amazing," said senior goalie Becca Wilen. "We had a strong group of seven seniors who have been together for four years.

"We came out hard today, and we're just really proud of everything we were able to accomplish."

Wilen was strong throughout, recording 10 saves against a balanced and versatile Ridgewood offense. Seven of Ridgewood's 11 goals were off free position shots.

Lenape (20-2) scored the game's first goal. But Ridgewood answered with a 5-0 run and never gave up the lead.

"It was a tough game today," Ridgewood coach Karla Mixon. "Lenape played really well, they were aggressive. I was impressed."

Lenape senior Natalie Peel shined in the final game of a sensational senior season. She scored three goals. Her tally with 27 minutes, 47 seconds left made the score 5-4, the closest Lenape came to Ridgewood in the second half.

With 12:24 left, Peel scored a streaking goal to make the score 10-6.

For the rest of the half, the Indians pummeled Ridgewood with chances and controlled the run of play. After a Ridgewood goal with 10:36 left, Lenape scored three unanswered to end the game - each by junior Kasey Donoghue.

"Everyone put out their best effort and we just never gave up the fight, even when there was two minutes left," Wilen said. "These girls are amazing. . . . And this whole season has just been incredible."

Lenape 2 7 - 9

Ridgewood 5 6 - 11

Goals: L-Natalie Peel 3, Kasey Donoghue 3, Kaity McKenna, Erin Donoghue, Gabby Fornia. R- Hannah Cermack 2, Alex Absey 2, Chelsea Trattner 2, Jordan Ford, Ashley Turnbull, Katie Bourque, Claire Smesko, Katie Bourque.

Saves: L-Rebecca Wilen 10; R- Casey Cole 6.

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