Urbana girls are definition of gritty in tough title game loss to perennial champ Broadneck

OWINGS MILLS — The Urbana girls lacrosse team’s catchword this season has been “grit.”

It was printed on blue warm-up shirts worn by Hawks players and coaches. And after it was used by the Hawks’ Colby Johnson during Thursday’s postgame press conference, coach Ryan Hines asked another of his players, Cora Betten, to give her definition of the word.

Betten’s response deftly summed up the unity and drive that served the Hawks so well all year. But in actuality, no words — from her or anyone else — could’ve defined grit was as well as Urbana’s actions over the previous 48 game minutes.

Hailing from a county that had yet to produce a girls lacrosse state champion and facing a Broadneck team that had won three straight state crowns, the Hawks did everything necessary to hang right with an opponent that, on paper, seemed like the overwhelming favorite.

But thanks to clutch Broadneck goals, tough saves by Bruins freshman goalie Molly Robison and a pair of Urbana yellow cards in the fourth quarter, the Hawks came up just short of making history, losing 10-9 in the Class 4A state championship game at Stevenson University.

While Urbana players had tears in their eyes as they accepted their runner-up medals, they had just come closer than any Frederick County girls lacrosse team to winning a state title.

“We have a lot of grit,” said Johnson, who then admitted that nerves might’ve contributed to a slow start that saw the Hawks fall behind 5-2 by the end of the first quarter. “But [facing] a three-time champion, we have nothing to lose. We went in and fought our best. It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted. We put everything out there.”

Hines, whose offense kept countering with goals and whose defense was rock-solid, agreed.

“These girls played their tails off,” he said. “Every single one of ‘em is dog-tired, they’re cramping. I love every single one of them. They work their butts off.”

Hines’ counterpart offered similar praise after the Bruins survived a game-long grudge match by the thinnest of margins against a program that was playing its first state final since 2005.

“We’ve had disappointments, too. So it’s really nice that we had the opportunity and that it’s come out our way four years,” Broadneck coach Katy Kelley said. “because that was a really good Urbana team we just played. Super impressed. Well-coached and very aggressive.”

No single play made the difference, although Hines was quick to blame himself for a pair of Broadneck goals — both scored by Ceci Facciponti — in the final two seconds of the first and third quarters. Those goals allowed the Bruins to either pad or restore the lead.

Facciponti’s goal with 1.3 seconds left in the third gave the Bruins a 6-5 lead heading into the final quarter.

While Betten quickly countered with a goal on the first possession of the fourth, that would be the last time the Hawks — who never led — tied the game.

After Urbana got a yellow card with 7:25 left, the Bruins scored two quick goals with the player advantage.

Urbana kept the pressure on, though.

With the Hawks trailing 10-8, Josey Hines (who tied Johnson with a team-high three goals), picked off a pass and fed the ball to Paige White, who then fired the ball to Johnson. As White limped off the field with a cramped left calf, Johnson scored to make it 10-9 with 2:03 left.

Urbana’s latest comeback attempt, though, quickly got foiled. The Bruins not only won the ensuing draw, a component of the game Urbana bettered them in most of the night, but the Hawks got a yellow card with 1:24 left.

Broadneck just played keepaway until the final second ticked off.

“I’m disappointed, but at the same time, it’s amazing to make it this far,” White said.

Before the game’s opening draw, White and Josey Hines hugged. The latter is a sophomore who admittedly felt some jitters as this big game approached.

“There were a lot of nerves coming in, and I was very stressed,” said Hines, who talked things over with her older sister and former Urbana player, Avery, to help deal with this issue. “You just have to trust your teammates. It is like another game, but it is a state championship against a team that’s been state champions for the past three years.”

The Bruins seemed on the verge of cruising to title No. 4 when Facciponti’s goal with .5 seconds left in the first quarter gave them a 5-2 lead. But then Urbana’s trademark stingy defense kicked, holding Broadneck scoreless for the entire second quarter.

As Ryan Hines said, there was no single star defender, just a unit full of determined players.

“You look at how they slide and they communicate and they work together. They’re all focused on stopping the ball,” he said. “And I think once we got the nerves out in the first quarter and realized, ‘OK, we’ve got this,’ then our defense stepped up.”

It had to be on a night when the Bruins were more than happy to be patient, working the ball around continually in hopes of finding some sort of elusive crack. And when they found one, it was no easy feat getting shots past goalie Paije Brown, who made some timely stops and finished with four saves.

On the other end of the field, many seemingly net-bound shots were stopped by Robison, who drew plenty of praise from Ryan Hines.

Lilli Pontius, Reagan McKenney and Betten each had one goal for Urbana.

The Hawks (13-7) will return many players who hope to get another crack at that elusive state crown. Meanwhile, seniors like White have memories of a stellar season.

“I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team,” she said. “These girls picked me up on bad days. Even on a good day, they can make me laugh.”