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Decatur lax team falls in state championship

(May 22, 2015) Stephen Decatur made its first appearance in the girls’ lacrosse state championship game since 2006 Wednesday night, but unfortunately, the Lady Seahawks came up a bit short, falling to the Century Knights 10-7 at Stevenson University.

“It was a good game. We played really well. It could have gone either way,” Decatur Coach Bob Musitano said. “I thought we handled ourselves very well. I was proud of them. You can’t ask for any more from the girls than what we got.”

Century got on the board first, just over a minute into the 3A-2A title game. Sophomore Lexie VanKirk evened the score at the 18:39 mark, assisted by her sister, Payton, a senior. Sophomore Claire Porter put Decatur on top 2-1 with 16:09 remaining in the first half.

Senior goalie, captain Jillian Petito, came up with three big saves before junior Elle Bargar boosted the Seahawks advantage to 3-1, 13:57 before halftime.

The Knights cut the lead to one, but Porter gave Decatur a two-goal cushion off a Bargar pass seconds later.

Century netted three shots to pull ahead 5-4 with 2:58 left in the half.

Senior Blair Yesko tied it 5-5, 15 seconds before halftime.

Bargar provided Decatur with the go-ahead goal with 18:08 remaining in the game. Three minutes later, it was tied again. Century gained a 7-6 lead with 10:46 on the clock.

Lexie VanKirk was given her second yellow card with just over 11 minutes left and had to leave the field for the rest of the game. About 40 seconds later, the Knights scored.

Payton VanKirk made it 7-all, netting what would be Decatur’s last goal with eight and a half minutes to play.

Century took an 8-7 lead about a minute later and tacked on two more goals.

Musitano praised Petito and the Decatur defense.

“Our defense was awesome,” he said. “They’re the fastest team we’ve seen all year.”

The Knights took more than 20 shots and scored 10. The Seahawks scored seven of the 11 shots they fired at the goal.

“We knew coming into the game that it was going to be our last game together so after the game of course we were all upset but, at the same time we are so proud of each other and everything we have done,” Petito said. “Everyone gave 100 percent, everything they had and never gave up.”

Decatur advanced to the state championship game after edging out the Hereford Bulls 7-6 in the semifinals last Friday at Annapolis High School.

Hereford scored first, followed by two Porter goals. The Bulls netted two shots to pull ahead 3-2, but Lexie VanKirk made it 3-3 with 46 seconds remaining in the first half.

Hereford took an early lead about 30 seconds into the second half. Bargar tied it 4-4 and Lexie VanKirk put the Seahawks on top 5-4.

The Bulls struck twice and with 12 minutes left in the game they led 6-5. Lexie VanKirk evened the score at the 5:20 mark and gave her team the go-ahead goal with 4:40 remaining.

“I knew that I did not want this to be the last game I played with my sister, Payton, or any of the seniors and I was going to do anything I could to make sure we had one more together,” VanKirk said. “It’s been such an amazing two years with the senior class and I wouldn’t want to take on a state championship with any other girls.”

With about three and a half minutes on the clock, Musitano said the plan was to hold the ball and kill time.

Lexie VanKirk stepped up and led the team with four goals.

“I did feel like this was one of the best games I’ve played all season. The confidence I had in my team and in myself was like no other. Losing in the semifinals last year, I didn’t want to stop there again,” she said. “Right as the game started it was clear that my sister, Payton, and Blair were being marked tighter than usual. At this point, everyone on the field knew it was time to step up since looking to two of our strongest players wasn’t going to be as easy.”

Porter chipped in with two goals and Bargar had one. Petito stopped 10 Hereford shots.

“It was quite a game. The teams were evenly matched,” Musitano said. “Our girls just out-fought them. They out-played them. Every player on the field worked together. It was smart lacrosse and fun to watch.”

Decatur was 17-0 going into the state championship game. Seventeen is the most wins in a season for the program. The Seahawks captured the Bayside Conference title this season. It was the third Bayside championship this year for Petito, the VanKirk sisters and senior captain Ally Beck, who also won conference titles in soccer and basketball.

The girls’ lacrosse team also took home its second consecutive 3A-2A East Regional title. The team has advanced to the state semifinals six times in the program’s 15-year history and has made it twice to the championship game, according to Musitano.

Before the state finals, Decatur was ranked No. 8 in Maryland and No. 21 in the country out of more than 2,700 teams.

Musitano said the 2015 season was “a complete success.”

The team will lose six seniors to graduation–Petito, Payton VanKirk, Beck, Yesko, Jordan Klebe and captain Jenna Leitgeb, who was sidelined while rehabbing her knee after surgery this past fall, following an injury during the soccer season. She was cleared to play and did take the field in the state championship match.

“Our seniors led the team. They showed the others how to win tight games,” Musitano said. “They’ll be missed.”

“Our season was an amazing one, from going into the state finals undefeated, Bayside champs, regional champs, and being state finalist,” Petito added. “We couldn’t have imagined a better year. I’m so proud of my team and I’m going to miss them so much.”

A number of underclassmen got playing time this season and six sophomores earned starting spots in the line-up. With a core group returning, the team should be strong next year, said Musitano, who has coached the squad for 12 seasons.

“They’re good lacrosse players. We’ll have some depth next year,” Musitano said.

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