First in California as a player, then while coaching in Chicago, West Forsyth head coach John Kiefer knows his way through a state championship lacrosse game.
Next, Kiefer will get to cross Georgia off of his list as West Forsyth took down Chattahoochee on Tuesday, 11-9, to advance to the Class 7A state championship.
“It’s the ultimate goal,” Kiefer said. “There’s nothing like it. It’s just a testament to these ladies’ hard work and what they’ve accomplished.”
The Wolverines came out on fire, starting the game on a 7-0 run. Kiefer said that the early lead to be so big was unexpected.
“It was surprising because Chattahoochee is a really good team,” Kiefer said. “We get out on top of people and then our depth gets in the way because we can’t sub in the people that we would like.”
However, Chattahoochee began to figure things out offensively, scoring two goals late in the first half to enter halftime down 9-2. The Cougars then started the second half on a 6-1 run to bring the game as close as 10-8.
Kiefer said he thought that the big lead knocked his team off-kilter to start the second half and that the Wolverines became complacent. However, he remembered saying before the game that if the defense could hold Chattahoochee to under 10 goals, West would win the game.
So, when Maggie Bruce scored the 11th goal of the game, Kiefer’s prophecy became reality. Chattahoochee scored one last-minute goal, but it was too little, too late.
“Our girls are used to being in chaotic environments because we work on it at practice,” Kiefer said. “We do better in chaotic environments rather than no chaos."
Five separate Wolverines scored double-digit goals in Tuesday’s win. Cami Merkel had a team-high three goals and Jenna Burrow led the Wolverines’ offense with two assists, along with two goals. Bruce, Noelle Kirley, and Madison Houlberg each scored two goals.
“This is unreal,” Burrow said. “It’s still processing."
Tuesday’s win marks West's 20th victory of the season and the team's 17th in a row. Their last loss came March 2, when they first played Chattahoochee, losing 13-12.
The Wolverines will now get a chance at revenge against the only other team they have lost to this season, Georgia high school girls lacrosse powerhouse, Milton.
West’s first loss of the season was a 10-9 loss to Milton. Milton is undefeated on the season, but their next closest margin of victory was an 18-12 win over Hillgrove, so West has been by far their most formidable opponent.
“We have to put everything into the game,” Burrow said. “I think that we made it this far says so much already. Whatever happens, we worked hard for it.”
The Class 6A-7A state championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Denmark.
“It’s all about being accountable and being responsible for yourself,” Kiefer said. “Since we’ve played them before, we know what they can do. Let the best man win now.”