Lancaster needed to stop a free position shot to win a championship, and it did. Amherst needed to score on one, and it did. Hamburg, meanwhile, didn't cut it so close.
Lancaster reclaimed the Section VI Class A girls' lacrosse championship with a 5-4 victory over Frontier that was only ensured when junior goalie Karli Pawlak stopped a point-blank free position shot with 18 seconds left.
Amherst won its eighth straight sectional title with a 16-13 overtime victory over Lake Shore in the Class C final. Tigers sophomore Grace Lawson forced overtime by scoring her eighth goal of the game on a free position shot with 7.6 seconds left, and Amherst scored all three of its goals in the first of two three-minute overtime periods to win.
In the final game before a combined crowd of about 1,000 Tuesday evening at All High Stadium, Hamburg got its usual dose of balanced scoring while allowing just one second-half goal in a 15-6 victory over Williamsville North in the Class B final.
Lancaster (13-5), Hamburg (16-3) and Amherst (13-5) move on to the Far West Regionals against the champions from Section V (Rochester area). The games are Saturday at 3:30 (C), 5:30 (A) and 8 (B) at All High.
The Class A title had been owned by Lancaster for six straight years before Frontier won last year's final, 6-3. The rematch was, as expected, a tightly played one after the teams split two one-goal games during the regular season.
"We've been focusing on this for literally 365 days," said Lancaster coach Julie Buccieri. "We wanted so badly for this game to go in our favor, and they worked hard and got it done."
Sophomores Allie Stewart and Alexis Ruggierio each scored two goals for Lancaster, which took a 4-2 lead at halftime. Ruggierio scored to give Lancaster a 5-2 lead with 22:51 left. Frontier got a goal from junior Christina Heppner with 11:37 to play, then drew to 5-4 with 8:05 left on a free-position goal by junior Hannah Christiansen.
Pawlak, a junior who became the starter two games into the season when senior Brooklyn Schilling was injured, made two saves in the final minutes. Then Frontier senior Joelle Kaczmarek earned the crucial free position, in which a foul by the defense results in a whistle that stops play; defenders are then backed away so that the offensive player with the ball has a clear path to the goal.
"You just have to keep on watching the ball and keep your eyes on it," Pawlak said. "I was just hoping I didn't let it go in."
The Class C game swung back and fourth, with Lake Shore scoring the first four goals, Amherst scoring the next eight, and Lake Shore the next four for an 8-8 game. The teams traded goals nearly the rest of the way.
The Eagles went up, 13-12, with 1:47 to play as sophomore Alie Jimerson scored her fifth goal of the game off a nice pass from senior Marissa Haring. That score held until Amherst earned a final possession and Lawson drew a free position shot. Her shot was stopped -- but an Eagle defender moved early to give her another chance, which she buried.
Amherst executed some excellent possessions on offense to claim the game. Senior Carly Martin scored off a pass from senior Sara O'Brien 26 seconds into overtime. Just over a minute later, Martin found senior Elie Masters for a 15-13 lead. Freshman Angelina Simon then converted with 6.8 seconds left in the first OT.
The Class B final was one that Hamburg was waiting for since losing last year's title game. The Bulldogs powered past Williamsville North thanks to seven straight second-half goals while junior Lauryn Courteau made several saves on the other end. Juniors Taylor Wolf and Megan Mikolajek each scored five goals for Hamburg while senior Amanda Obenshain had three.
For more on the championships, go to the Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com.