Fairmont Senior girls fall to University 6-5 in triple overtime championship game

May 22—FAIRMONT — Facing the odds due to injuries, lack of locker rooms, and unsavory weather, Fairmont Senior girls lacrosse played University High for the state championship in Morgantown Saturday afternoon.

Despite playing to a draw into the third overtime, the first time ever for a championship lacrosse game in West Virginia, Fairmont Senior couldn't keep the title streak alive. University scored the golden goal late in the third overtime to win 6-5 and dethrone the Polar Bears.

"We played with a lot of heart," Fairmont Senior head coach Jon Cain said. "It was a very physical game, but I thought our girls kept battling the whole time."

The girls battled for nearly four hours, according to Cain. The game ended with about a minute left in the third overtime off an eight-meter goal from University, something that Fairmont Senior goalie Liz Amos said is hard to defend.

"Those are hard to defend sometimes," Amos said. "Those are really 50/50. Sometimes you get lucky with a save, and sometimes you don't."

Fairmont Senior didn't have a lot going for it entering the game. The team's leading scorer, senior Emily Decker, couldn't play due to a knee injury sustained in practice weeks ago. Cain said the team changed the offense to account for this, but that may have affected Fairmont Senior's ability to transition from offense to defense.

On top of this, the game was at University's home field, where there were no available locker rooms when the team arrived, and Fairmont Senior was left in the hot afternoon sun for 30-45 minutes before the game, according to Amos.

Still, neither player nor coach blamed the circumstances for the result. Cain and Amos concurred Fairmont Senior had ample opportunity to put the game away but failed to do so.

"Whenever you get into double or triple overtime, even in single overtime, it's just a matter of the ball bouncing the right way," Cain said. "It's a golden goal. Whoever scores first, it's over. It's not like you get another chance. And we did have our chances in overtime. We just didn't capitalize on them."

The Polar Bears sustained some injuries during the game as well. Seniors Ainsley Lilly and Sarah Bulatko had minor injuries but later came back in. Amos also got injured near the end of the first half and stayed off field for a few minutes. She later returned to the game and finished despite having an injured hip.

"I ran behind the goal to pick up a ball," Amos said. "I had it. I was getting double teamed. A girl cross checked me in the ribs and lifted me off the ground, and I landed straight on my hip. Whenever I landed, I either landed on her foot or my stick and it gave me a hip contusion and a sprain."

No matter what, Fairmont Senior gave it everything they had and left it all on the field. Amos said that there are no regrets with how the Polar Bears played that game.

"I don't think anyone has a regret on that field," Amos said. "We walked off being able to look each other in the eye and 'I gave it everything I had.' And you know what? Saturday it wasn't enough, but that's all that you can ask for in a game if you step off that field and you said 'I gave everything,' and everyone on that field was able to come up and say that."

The senior class, while not ending on the high note they wanted, still leave as one of the most accomplished in a storied program's history. They've had four straight state championship appearances, three championships and a runner up, a 66-2 record in-state and 77-4 overall.

It's an emotional goodbye for Amos and the other seniors. Amos said the team is truly a family, and she would drop everything to help her younger teammates get better. And she and other program alumni will always stay close.

As for the future of Fairmont Senior girls lacrosse, which loses eight starters to graduation, Cain believes the team will stick to the motto "Reload, not rebuild." It's lost this many starters before, and it's gaining eight new members from the middle school team next year. According to Cain, the kids want to be part of something great and keep the program's winning ways alive.

"Kids like the tradition of Fairmont Senior lacrosse," Cain said. "And they like the idea of being a part of that tradition and also be a part of keeping it going and not having a drop off.

"I think you'll see another great team next year. I really believe that."

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548