The state champion Chaparral Firebirds.
The Chaparral Firebirds won their second straight state lacrosse championship Friday night, prevailing 14-13 in overtime over the previously top-ranked Horizon Huskies. For the girls who played and the overflow crowd at the Reach 11 sports complex who watched, it was a game they will vividly remember the rest of their lives.
While one would expect a great game between the state’s highest scoring teams that featured six of the top seven goal scorers in Arizona, what transpired exceeded those expectations. It was simply a game where every ground ball, every pass and indeed every square foot of the field was contested by both teams. After Horizon opened the scoring in the first minute, the score was tied eight times over the course of the game.
The most dominant player on the field during the first half was Horizon midfielder Madison Kinzley, who won nine of the first 10 draws of the game. Horizon also featured a stifling defense and explosive transition game. With the score 5-5, Chaparral scored two goals in the last 19 seconds of the first half. The second goal came after Chaparral senior Alexa Sarussi won the draw and subsequently picked up a loose ball in front of the Horizon goal and scored with six seconds left in the half. It would be the first of two last-second goals for Sarussi during the evening.
Chaparral captains Alexa Sarussi (l) and Makenna Pohle (r) with head coach Jessica Livingston and the state title trophy.
The second half opened with Chaparral scoring two goals in the first minute and 19 seconds, which meant that going back to the end of the first half, Chaparral had scored four goals in only a minute and 38 seconds. Most teams would have folded after getting such a swift four-goal punch to the mouth, but Horizon was not fazed. Indeed, over the next 11 minutes, Horizon answered with five straight goals to take a 10-9 lead. Chaparral’s Makenna Pohle responded with a goal only 10 seconds later to tie the game at 10 all.
With 12 minutes remaining in the second half and the game now tied, the contest transformed into something beyond a lacrosse game. Skill, speed, strength and strategy would no longer be enough for either team to win. The game had simply become a contest of the collective wills of each team, with neither team backing down an inch.
Chaparral scored the next two goals to take a 12-10 lead with 2:26 left. Again, a lesser team may have folded at that point, but Horizon kept coming and with 40 seconds left tied the game at 12-12.
At this point, many of the 400 or so fans were on their feet, pressed against the sidelines, excitedly shouting support for their teams and waiting to run onto the field the moment the game ended. It was everything a state championship game should be. As Horizon won possession of the ball for the game’s final seconds and looked for the winning goal, the crowd was transfixed.
Chaparral Goalie Katherine Marhnes, "K4," after the game.
With seven seconds left, Horizon’s Maddie Chapman, the state’s leading goal scorer, suddenly broke free with the ball in front of Chaparral’s goal and had a point blank shot from no more than 10 feet away. The only person standing in Chapman’s way was Chaparral’s 4′ 11″ senior goalie, Katherine Marhnes. Known as “K4” to her teammates, because she was one of four Katherines on the team last year, Marhnes had never played lacrosse until last year, when the Chaparral JV team did not have a goalie and she decided to give it a try.
Now in a split second, with the state title on the line and the state’s most menacing scorer all alone in front of her, Marhnes stopped what appeared to be a certain goal and put the game into overtime.
In the overtime, which consists of two three-minute periods, followed by sudden death if necessary, Horizon scored first and Chaparral sophomore Scarlett Sulliman answered with a goal 13 seconds later to tie the score. Then, with only 16.6 seconds left in the second overtime period, Chaparral co-captain Alexa Sarussi scored the game winner on a penalty shot.
It would be cruel and unfair to say that Horizon lost the game. An extraordinarily talented and disciplined team, Horizon gave everything they had to give and were simply behind when time ran out. For both teams, the scoreboard simply did not reflect the character, poise and determination they displayed throughout the game. — Dan Barr
The sign and smiles say it all.