It was a case of "new year, same result" for the girls lacrosse teams of Hamburg and Lake Shore High Schools on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs and Eagles both defended their Section VI titles in the finals.
Hamburg had its hands full for much of the game, but eventually pulled away for an 8-5 win over Niagara Wheatfield in Class B, while Lake Shore had a big second half in downing West Seneca East, 16-9, in Class C. The two games were played at All High Stadium in Buffalo.
Such sectional championships have become almost routine at Hamburg. The Bulldogs have won six in a row, one of the longest such streaks of any high school sports team in the region.
"It's exciting," said coach Katy Ryan said. "It's never easy. It's a different team every year. You never have the same personnel, you never have the same leadership. The fact that a group of 30 different girls can do it six straight times is incredible."
Some of the Hamburg players claimed their fourth title in as many years. That's an impressive way to end the Western New York portion of their high school careers.
"It's amazing," senior Addy Wright said. "You can't win just three straight - you have to win the fourth one too. There's definitely some pressure there, especially being seniors."
The Bulldogs (12-6) came in as the No. 1 seed, and that carried a little baggage. After all, Hamburg already had beaten the Falcons twice earlier in the season, and had the string of wins from the past that put a bull's-eye on their backs.
And there was reason to be nervous through the first 30 minutes of play. The teams were even at 4-4, as Niagara Wheatfield (9-8) erased a 4-2 lead with two goals in less than a minute at the beginning of the second half. At that point, Erin Wegzyrn had all four goals for the Falcons, who probably had the edge in time of possession at that point of the game.
"I had a feeling they would come out and try to control the game," Ryan said. "But I knew we had played good competition this year. I had a feeling that we would be able to keep our composure and do what we needed to do."
Then Wright scored the go-ahead goal with 9:58 left, and Emma O'Neil – described by Wright as "our interception queen" - added some insurance with two goals in the final five minutes to complete a hat trick.
"I was nervous at first, because it was so close, but the way we came on at the end was pretty exciting," senior Julia Feuerstein said.
The Class C final also matched the top two seeds in the bracket, and there was little to choose between the teams through the end of the first half. Lake Shore (16-2), which hadn't lost to a team from Western New York all season, wasn't too happy about how the opening 25 minutes went against the Trojans (15-4).
"They yelled at each other a little bit," Eagles coach Hannah Wawrowski said about her team at halftime after leading by 5-4. "They got angry at each other. Then we said, everyone has to calm down because it's anybody's game. We had to play our game and play hard, and that's what they did."
It didn't take long for Lake Shore to break the game open. Shayla Scanlan had two goals in the first 3 minutes and six seconds, and three of her teams scored to make it a five-goal run. The Eagles' lead went as high as eight a few times before settling at seven at the buzzer.
"We all just sat down and realized what we needed to do," said senior Sophia Koenig, who finished with a team-high five goals. "We needed to focus and work as a team. ... We really put our game together and worked hard."
Koenig wasn't the only offensive star in the game. Scanlan had four goals, Ivy Santana had three and Jalyn and Ella Jimerson had two each.
"I love looking at my scorebook because it's not just one, two or three people scoring all the time in any given game," Wawronski said. "There's four or five. Sometimes everyone at least has a shot on net."
Hamburg will be back at All High at 10 a.m. on Saturday for the Far West Regional against Canandaigua. Section V teams have traditionally been a major road block for Section VI teams, but the Bulldogs hope that this year's results will be different.
"We played Canandaigua this year (a 14-0 loss), and I know the kids are anxious to give them a better game that we did last time," Ryan said.
Then at noon, Lake Shore will play Honeoye Falls-Lima for the chance to play for a state title. The same two teams played last year in the FWR, and HF-L took a 12-7 victory.
"Hopefully we'll play the first half of that game like we did in the second half of this game," Wawronski said.