Built for this moment: Chapin dominates, wins 5A girls lacrosse state championship

As the final seconds ticked off the clock at Irmo’s W.C. Hawkins Stadium for the Class 5A girls’ lacrosse state championship Saturday, Chapin coach Raven Thomas huddled with her assistants along the sideline and enjoyed the moment that was five years in the making.

The Eagles got four goals each from seniors Ava-Claire Collins and Jules Brown to cap a dominant playoff run with a 13-4 victory over Fort Mill and earn the program’s second state championship and first since 2019. The Eagles were making their fourth appearance in a state lacrosse championship.

“I’m ecstatic,” Thomas beamed afterward. “These girls have worked so hard for this for four years. To finally see it come to fruition is amazing. Our seniors this year have been so dedicated. We knew we were state champions as soon as open season started. We’ve done everything needed to get here.

“This whole season was geared for this moment. I gave us the toughest schedule we’ve ever seen, so every game was going to probably be harder than the state championship, to know we would be more than ready for today. “

It was a resounding end to a decorated career for Collins. The senior was one of 25 players named to the 2023 USA Today National team along with All-American honors. Collins finished this season with 96 goals and a school record 232 for her career, but all the individual accolades paled in comparison to the feeling on Saturday.

“It feels so amazing,” the Winthrop signee said. “All the things I’ve won has been individual, and this is with my best friends. Being able to accomplish something so amazing that we’ve been working so hard for, it feels surreal. I’m so proud of every single one of them.”

The teams met on March 12 with Chapin pulling out a 10-7 victory. It wasn’t that close this time around.

Chapin (18-2) spotted Fort Mill (13-6) the first goal when CeCe Shia, who finished with three goals for the Yellow Jackets, scored a couple of minutes into the match. But it was all Eagles after that point.

Collins scored twice and Brooke Holmes added another goal to give Chapin a 3-1 lead after one quarter. Holmes scored twice in the second quarter, Collins added another goal and Lauren Budds scored with less than a minute remaining in the half to give the Eagles a commanding 7-1 lead at the half.

Brown scored twice and Collins added her final goal of her career to complete the 10 unanswered points by Chapin. It was 10-2 heading into the final 12 minutes.

“The drive and want to win. We’ve been cut short so many times before. There was nothing going to get in this team’s way today,” Thomas said.

Brown scored twice in the final quarter and Budds added her second goal to begin the celebration near midfield. Budds and Collins added two assists with Claire Cornelison, Emalee Laney and Brown each adding one assist. Stephanie Mitchell and Dakota Cheek each played a half in goal and were spectacular when challenged.

“We came into this game really confident because we beat them in season. Our confidence has really come a long way this season, which helped us in the playoffs a lot,” Brown said. “We came short every single year and it sucked. I don’t know why we waited this long to do it, but we finally did it.”