If you listen to Douglas Freeman senior Kerry Nease, her lacrosse team’s first Class 5 state title win was a long time coming.
Saturday afternoon’s 16-14 win over Riverside culminated years of effort with a group that has been playing together since middle school. Coach Christina D’Angelo began coaching Nease with her sixth-grade club team.
“I’ve been thinking about winning with this team for as long as I can remember. It’s just so rewarding to finally get here,” Nease said.
The visitors from Loudoun County put up a fight, building a lead through the first half as the team maintained possession on draws and benefited from a handful of Freeman false starts.
While the Mavericks (12-1) fought to keep things even, a wavering three-goal lead for the Rams led to D’Angelo telling her team that their goal was to tie the game by halftime.
When the clock ticked down to intermission with the score 8-8, D’Angelo said she knew her team was in a good place.
“We were just able to work from there,” D’Angelo said. “Freeman is about the little things. It’s not always the big, glamorous things. It’s those ground balls, those little 50-50 moments, protecting our stick and just getting those pieced together really changed the momentum.”
Riverside’s Lydia Oldknow got the first goal of the second half, but a pair of goals from Nease and sophomore Bridget Wilson gave Freeman its first lead.
Lauren Greig tied it for the Rams once more, and the two teams continued to exchange blows, but the Mavericks held on to their position for the win.
Nease, who has committed to Duke, was steady on the draw and collected 5 of her 7 points from free shots — an important edge in a 2-point game over Riverside goaltender Celeste Endo, who finished with five saves.
Even in those high-pressure moments, Nease said her trust in her team kept things from weighing heavily on her during the game.
“I didn’t have any doubt,” Nease said. “I just have so much support with this team and we just work so well together, I just knew they were going to back me up and that we were going to pull through.”
Nease led the team in goals with seven. Wilson registered four goals and two assists. Grace Moore — dubbed “Amazing” Grace by Freeman because of her clutch plays on the attack — had two goals and an assist.
Greig led Riverside in points with five goals and three assists. Oldknow scored five goals.
D’Angelo said that, along with long hours Freeman put into its season, the growth of lacrosse in the Richmond area with year-round play has helped boost the competition level of her team in the past five years.
She said potential existed to hold on to that momentum, though the team will lose several key senior players. Wilson and Moore are sophomores.
“These seniors have planted a big seed in terms of what this team is supposed to look like, so I have hope that we can carry that on,” D’Angelo said.
Douglas Freeman 8 8 — 16
Riverside 8 6 — 14
Goals: DSF — Nease 7, Wilson 4, Moore 2, DeSouza 2, Jacoby; RIV — Oldknow 5, Greig 4, Broyhill 2, Morison 2, Greason
Assists: DSF — Wilson 2, Moore, Gouldin; RIV — Greig 3, Greason
Saves: DSF — Barlow 3; RIV — Endo 5