The Barrington High School girls’ lacrosse team played its best game in its last game and dethroned the six-time defending state champion Quakers of Moses Brown on Saturday night at Cranston …
The Barrington High School girls’ lacrosse team played its best game in its last game and dethroned the six-time defending state champion Quakers of Moses Brown on Saturday night at Cranston Stadium. The Eagles, who had lost every key game against the Quakers for the past seven years, including a 17-10 defeat back in April, won the championship in the state’s top division, 10-8, as part of an East Bay sweep of high school girls’ lacrosse. Portsmouth won the Division 2 crown, and East Providence the Division 3 crown.
The victory over Moses Brown triggered a euphoric outburst on the field and in the stands Saturday night, as players and parents who had never experienced a victory over the Providence private school erupted in celebration. After swarming senior goalie Audrey Keefe, the girls ran toward the stands and leapt into the arms of crying parents. It was a cathartic moment for the Eagles.
The game itself was a back and forth affair not decided until the closing minutes. Barrington jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Ava Kovolyan and Alex Hope, but Moses Brown answered back and the teams were tied at 3-3 halfway through the period. The Quakers then surged ahead with three straight goals to take a 6-3 lead in the latter stages of the first half.
With the game starting to slip away, Coach Ariana Cambio called a timeout in an attempt to steady the ship. It worked, and Barrington clawed its way back into contention, scoring two goals to draw close at 6-5. With about 30 seconds left in the half, the Eagles regained possession in their own end, transitioned quickly to offense and got the ball to junior Emma Johnson, who cut to the net and was awarded a free position restart. With 10 seconds left in the half, Johnson stuffed the ball into the back of the net to draw the teams even and send the Barrington fans into a frenzy.
The teams went into halftime tied 6-6.
Coach Cambio spent most of this season preparing the Eagles for the second half of Saturday’s game. “Since the beginning of the season, I told the girls we could do this. I told them we could beat Moses Brown. They are a very talented team, and yes, they had won six in a row, which is amazing, and all credit to them. But I felt like we could beat them this year,” Cambio said after the game.
In the second half, the Eagles’ swarming defense reached a new level. Anchored by four juniors, Abby Martel, Hannah Jackson, Amy LaBelle and Peyton Whittet, with sophomore Lily Kirk subbing in and Keefe behind them in net, the Eagles kept the Quakers off the score sheet for long stretches of the half. Even when Moses Brown was awarded numerous free position restarts from in front of the net, they struggled to get clean shots on goal. Stick-checking defenders, like midfielder Kate Robertson, often stepped in to alter the shot or knock the ball clean from the attacker’s stick.
After the game, several players gave credit to Cambio for teaching the Eagles how to play a zone defense, which is rare in Rhode Island high school girls lacrosse. “The zone was really a big learning curve for them,” Cambio said. “It wasn’t easy to switch and teach them a new defense, but they stuck with it, and it paid off big time … It demands a lot of communication, and their communication has improved so much throughout the season. I truly believe we have the best defense in the league. We’ve come so far over the course of the season.”
The second half
Despite holding the Quakers to only two goals in the second half, the outcome was never certain. After each team scored to make it 7-7, the Quakers got the go-ahead goal to take an 8-7 lead. Barrington answered, and the two foes were tied 8-8 with a little more than 8 minutes to play.
Coach Cambio had a lot of praise for her team after the game, both for individuals and for their team play. She said one of the most important aspects of the victory was the way Barrington transitioned out of its own end, and that was the case on what ultimately became the game-winning goal.
The Eagles turned the Quakers over deep in their own zone, and Jackson raced it out of danger toward midfield. She whipped a pass in stride to Johnson, who received it just past midfield, turned and began sprinting toward goal. Running past and off defenders, Johnson ripped a shot into the back of the net to give the Eagles a 9-8 lead.
That sequence was an example of how the Eagles grew and developed over the second half of the season. “The first time we played them, we would get swarmed and turn the ball over,” Cambio said. “So after that first game, we worked a lot on maintaining composure in those situations. That was huge for us. We practiced it and practiced it. On Saturday night, our clears, from our end of the field, looked amazing. Our transitions looked phenomenal. Our passing game looked great. … That was one of the best games we played all year, and it’s especially amazing that it happened against Moses Brown.”
Moments after the Johnson goal, Barrington sophomore Anna Lombardi scored a highlight-reel, insurance goal after catching a pass high over her head and rifling a shot in one fluid motion from in front of the net. The Eagles had a 10-8 lead.
Killing the clock
After once again snuffing a Quakers attack, the Eagles then did the unthinkable and played keepaway for five and a half minutes in their own offensive zone to nurse their two-goal lead. Senior captain Robertson had her own highlight-reel play when she came out of nowhere to snag an errant pass with a one-handed lunge in the middle of three Moses Brown players, keeping the ball in Barrington's hands until the clock ticked down to zero.
Watching from the sideline as her team drained more than five minutes from the game, Coach Cambio said she couldn’t believe what was happening. She did not call for that strategy. The girls did it themselves on the field.
“The whole season, that was something we practiced, but we typically use it with about 2 minutes left in the game — not with 5. At first, I was like, I don’t believe what I’m seeing. But in the end, it was the right call. It worked perfectly.”
Watching in goal from the other end of the field, Keefe was in disbelief. “As soon as the clock hit 20 seconds, I knew it was over, and I started balling my eyes out,” she said.
The coach had enormous praise for the entire defense, and a lot for her senior goalie. “I would say that is the best game Audrey played all season,” Cambio said. “I’ve never seen her play like that before. Mentally, I could tell she was in a zone. When she made that save between her legs early in the game, I thought, ‘wow, this is her day.’ ”
Senior Kovolyan also had herself a day. The team’s leading scorer this season, she finished Saturday’s game with 4 goals and 1 assist. Johnson had 3 goals on 3 shots. Lombardi had 2 goals on 2 shots. And Jackson had 2 assists from her position on defense.
Though she did not score, Robertson had 3 assists and a dazzling array of defensive plays. She also had the satisfaction of winning her final game at Barrington. “This was such a team effort,” Robertson said. “Everyone contributed in their own way. It was such a team effort.”
Both Keefe and Robertson gave a lot of credit to their first-year coach for setting a standard and building a winning culture for Barrington. Said Keefe, “Her coaching style was so powerful. She did the research, and you could really trust her when she was speaking to you. I trusted her completely with everything.”
Robertson said the tone was set from the early moments of the season: “From the very beginning, she set our expectations for us, and we knew what our goals were. This entire season, we were playing for this championship. She did an amazing job, coming into a new program, making sure we were playing for each other. She did a lot of work on team bonding … Our culture was as good as our play. When we went out and played for each other, it really showed.”
Other stars of the game for Barrington were senior Reilly Curran, who took most of the draws for the Eagles, midfielder Violet Gagliano, and senior attackers Charlotte McGarry and Julia Stanchina. Lily Kirk, Charlotte Danyla, Stella Hillier and Emily Horn also contributed to the win. Other members of the championship team are Paris Mashburn, Winnie Macauley and Juliet Keefe.
Two days after the game, and a day after their seven seniors graduated, the girls were still flying high. “Honestly, winning that game was the best feeling in the world. It’s indescribable,” Robertson said. “Our team was so close. It was such a good vibe this year.”
“I’m going to remember this moment for the rest of my life,” Keefe said.