‘You have to have fight.’ Sayre downs South Warren to reach girls lacrosse state finals.

Sayre girls lacrosse can beat you in a myriad of ways.

The Spartans can dominate in transition, intercept thoughtful passes, follow their seniors’ lead or allow their star underclassmen to shine. But, on the path to a third consecutive Commonwealth Lacrosse League championship game, head coach Anna Cook wanted her team to zero in on communication and movement. And that’s precisely what Sayre did in its 18-5 rout of South Warren in the CLL semifinals on Thursday night.

“The last five games, it’s taken us a moment to settle into our groove,” Cook said. “These transition goals, they’re fun, they’re exciting, but they’re not where our sweet spot is. It’s about moving the ball. It’s about making cuts. We are a loud team off the field, and today we showed that we’re going to be a loud team on the field and we’re going to capitalize on our communication and our movement, and it was just exactly what they needed to propel them into a state championship.”

Sayre got out to a strong start, and it seemed as though everybody got to join in on the fun. Sayre’s three scoring leaders on the day — freshman Danica Porter (five goals), junior Avery Luring (four goals) and junior Anna Mullikin (four goals and two assists) — set the stage perfectly, combining for six goals while dependable freshman goalie Zhi Qing yielded just one in the first quarter.

Each Sayre goal prompted cheers from the fans, but the spectators seemed even more impressed with how their team was attacking — “Anna’s had two really nice assists,” one parent said. “They were really fantastic.”

Senior Ella Rhea Miller, who had a pair of key assists in the victory, said the team has learned just how effective it can be to operate as a complete unit.

“We’ve found that the more we work together on the field, the more we use one another and are able to harness one another’s talents, the more successful we are,” Miller said. “So just making sure we’re keeping that extra eye out for where our teammates are, or where they might be. Always looking one play ahead has really worked for us.”

Last season, in an attempt to repeat as CLL champions, the Spartans fell in a double-overtime heartbreaker to Lexington Catholic — a team Sayre had beaten three times prior to the championship upset — after taking an early lead. Everybody was aware after the first quarter, Cook said, that a five-goal lead and a good start only signaled a green light to keep it moving.

“I just said, ‘You can’t stop. If you stop now, that’s what you’re gonna do on Saturday (in the championship),’” Cook said. “‘So it just needs to keep going.’ We had a great team to play against that was ready to push us and wanted to be the best they could be and helped us be the best we could be. You have to have fight, and these girls showed that we are going to fight all the way to the end.”

And fight they did. The Spartans scored a tremendous nine goals in the second quarter, triggering the running clock with 5:07 to play after a smooth connection from senior Taylor Adams to Patrick.

“We’ve been practicing a lot these past few weeks,” Mullikin said. “There are some things that we need to work on still, but our attack moved the ball around really well, our draws worked and defense communicated a lot.”

Sayre had seven separate scorers contribute to the commanding victory, while South Warren’s Presley Helton (four goals) and Kolbe Wyrick (one) broke through to avoid the shutout. Though lopsided, the win gave the team plenty of insight on how best to approach Saturday’s championship game. Seniors Maddie Steinberg and Adams noted the importance of “making sure that everything clicks” and “constructive criticism.”

“During practice tomorrow,” Steinberg said, “we’re just making sure that everything clicks and we’re keeping our head on the ball …this isn’t an individual sport and it’s about clicking with your teammates and making sure that we can all work cohesively for the win.”

“Yeah,” Adams agreed. “Lifting each other up and having good constructive criticism on the field.”

On Saturday, Sayre will battle Bowling Green for its second CLL championship, and first since 2022, when the Spartans defeated the Purples 18-2 to hoist the trophy.

It hasn’t been a perfect season for the Spartans, who enter the weekend with an overall record of 13-8. Sayre opened the season with a disappointing 17-2 loss to Kentucky Country Day, and it endured a four-game skid in April. But senior leader Toko Ashida said that adversity has only helped inform Sayre’s success.

“I think this year we’ve had a fighter’s journey,” Ashida said. “We’ve progressed a lot from the beginning to the end of the season. We’ve gotten a lot better at communicating, especially on transition down the field. So I think we’re working really hard and today we clicked really well in the semifinal.”

Girls and boys lacrosse remain unsanctioned by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and are each split into two club leagues with different state championships. The other girls and boys league, called the Kentucky Scholastic Lacrosse League, consists of teams from the Louisville area.

Both boys and girls lacrosse are expected to be under the KHSAA umbrella next season with a single state championship for each.

Boys lacrosse

The Commonwealth Lacrosse League boys tournament got underway this week despite storm delays and postponements.

It includes defending CLL state champion Lexington Catholic (10-5), ranked No. 5 by and undefeated No. 4 Woodford County (14-0). The Knights and Yellow Jackets are among seven teams that received first-round byes in the 25-team tournament.

From Lexington, No. 10 Frederick Douglass (13-4) and No. 11 Henry Clay (10-7) also received byes.

Second-round action is scheduled Friday with games hosted by the higher seeds of each matchup. The region semifinals are set for Monday, the region finals on Wednesday and the state championship and all-star event will be held May 18 at Transylvania University’s Pat Deacon Stadium.

Girls Commonwealth Lacrosse League

Saturday’s games

At Transylvania University’s Pat Deacon Stadium

11:30 a.m.: Eighth-grade girls all-star game

1 p.m.: High school girls all-star game

2:30 p.m.: Championship — Sayre vs. Bowling Green

Boys Commonwealth Lacrosse League

Friday’s first-round game

Region 1: Lafayette at Lexington Christian

Friday’s second-round games

Region 1: Tates Creek at Woodford County; Bowling Green at South Warren; Paul Laurence Dunbar at Lexington Catholic

Region 2: Cooper at Frederick Douglass; Dixie Heights at Covington Catholic; Sayre at Ryle; Walton-Verona at Henry Clay

Saturday’s second-round game

Region 1: Lafayette-Lexington Christian winner at Collins

Monday’s games

Region semifinals at higher-seed sites

Wednesday’s games

Region finals at higher-seed sites

May 18 games

At Transylvania University’s Pat Deacon Stadium

5 p.m.: All-Star Game

7 p.m.: Championship