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High school lacrosse: South Jefferson beaten in state final by Cold Spring Harbor to end inspired postseason run

Jun. 9—CORTLAND — Experiencing the thrill and emotions of competing in its first state final in lacrosse, South Jefferson simply met its match on Saturday.

The Spartans hung with Cold Spring Harbor for the first half as well as early on in the second, but the highly-talented team from Long Island dominated play the rest of the way to pull away.

Ryan Reynolds scored three goals to lead a balanced attack as Section 8 champion Cold Spring Harbor dispatched South Jefferson, 12-5, to claim the Class D state girls lacrosse title at SUNY Cortland's Grady Field.

Jenna Kessler, Ruby Spielberger, Maggie Spehr and Olivia Mulada each generated a pair of goals for Cold Spring Harbor (17-4).

"It's tough," Spartans senior Savannah Hodges said. "I think just controlling the ball overall, we have to make smart decisions, we have to play with a championship mindset. We just had to play better."

South Jefferson, which was bidding to become the first team from the Frontier League to win a state title in lacrosse, finishes its season at 19-3.

Lily Morrison scored a pair of goals to pace the Spartans, while Lydia Tremont, Savannah Hodges and Jade Doldo each contributed a goal.

"I'm super proud and I have no regrets with them," South Jefferson coach Jen Williams said of her team. "They're a great group of kids that got us this far and this stage. Cold Stream Harbor played a great game today and capitalized on our mistakes and they outplayed us in many facets of the game."

South Jefferson controlled the ball for much of the first half, but found itself trailing 3-2 at halftime.

After Mulada scored a goal 54 seconds into the second half for Cold Spring Harbor, the Spartans answered as Morrison converted on a free position with 8 minutes and 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

But the Seahawks responded by scoring five unanswered goals, with a tally each from Kessler, Mulada, Spehr, Reynolds and Spielberger — all within the final 3:06 of the third quarter to build a 9-3 advantage.

"We haven't seen the balance of an offense like they have," Williams said of Cold Spring Harbor. "They have multiple threats at multiple positions, so we just haven't had to face that. And it is difficult to come into the 21st game and face that."

The last four goals of the period were scored on man-up opportunities as South Jefferson got into penalty trouble as it was assessed check to head penalty as well as being called for a cross check in the last minute of the quarter.

Spielberger scored her goal with five seconds left in the period and Morrison would answer with a free-position goal with 8:58 left in regulation as the Spartans drew within 9-4, but would get no closer.

"I think if we had capitalized in the third quarter on a couple of their mistakes and turnovers, I think that would have been a little bit of a turning point," Williams said. "But I felt like they got us on our heels and it was a really tough recovery. We got a couple cards and they're not a team you want to get cards against."

South Jefferson, which was assessed four yellow cards on the day, yielded a fifth man-up goal on Kelly Callaghan's tally with 6:53 left to boost the lead to 10-4.

"It is disappointing," Spartans senior defender Madison Pfleegor said. "With us, quite a few mistakes were made and I think a lot of people took this to heart, knowing that win or lose this is our last game. But I think we had a lot of mental blocks and didn't believe in ourselves as much as we did in the first half."

The Spartans won 14 of 21 faceoffs on the day, including six of seven in the first half. Chloe Elmer led the way by winning eight draws and Morrison and Brooke Perry each secured three.

"We had more possessions than them in the first half," Williams said. "We had the ball, we controlled it, we possessed it, it's just our shot percentage was not great."

"We had great possessions in the beginning, and then we just really needed to be more smart with what we did with the ball and it's why we ended where we did," Hodges said.

Earlier, South Jefferson had two man-up opportunities in the first half, but was turned away each time.

With Cold Spring Harbor leading 1-0 through the first quarter, Tremont scored a free-position goal 55 seconds into the second to tie the game.

After Spielberger scored from in close, South Jefferson responded to again tie the game, this time on a free-position tally from Hodges with 4:13 left in the half.

Then with the Spartans again on the man advantage on a Cold Spring Harbor check to the head penalty, Spehr followed by scoring a shorthanded goal with 40.6 seconds remaining in the half for the Seahawks.

Cold Spring Harbor, which never trailed in the game, claimed its first state championship since they won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019.

"They won it for a reason," Williams said. "They capitalized on all of our mistakes and I think that's a testament to their ability and balance. We haven't been held to five goals all year, except we did once — to (Cicero-North Syracuse) in the second game of the year. So they were jumping the gun, they were fast, they were strong, they were big. Their goalie is an All-American and there's a reason for that and their offense is very powerful."

South Jefferson advanced to the state title game by generating a dominant performance of its own in defeating Section 1's Bronxville, 18-4, on Friday.

Elmer, Perry and Laurelle Surette were each selected to the all-tournament team, while Jailee Biccum received the team's sportsmanship award for the tournament.

"I'm super proud," Hodges said of the team's run this season. "We worked super hard for it and we created a bond doing it all, so it's all worth it in the end."

The Spartans are just the third team from the Frontier League to reach a state final in lacrosse, joining Carthage, which made the title game in girls lacrosse in 2007 and 2010.

"I think it was a great experience in preparing the younger girls for what they'll see down the road," Hodges said. "And it was just a great ride with my team, I'm just so proud of everyone."

Williams added: "I'm just super proud that we were able to play in the game which is the last possible game of the season," Williams said. "And I told them that getting to the point where you're able to play the last possible game of your high school career is something that only eight teams are able to say.

"So they were able to get there and of course we're not satisfied with it, but we have to be proud of them. They're high school kids, they've got a bright future, many of them are going on to the next level, they'll never forget this."