It took 241 previous players to make it and 23 years, but the Lake girls soccer team finally secured its first Federal League title.
It was just a plain white piece of paper – six-feet long and one-foot wide – with red, white and blue letters.
When the banner was unfurled in front of 200 fans, three coaches and 25 varsity soccer players with the words “Lake High School Girls’ Soccer – Federal League Champions 2013”, it elicited cheers, screams, tears, laughs, hugs and sighs.
It took 241 previous players to make it and 23 years to unfurl it.
But they did it.
They did it with the right combination of speedy and tenacious players securing a critical 2-1 win over GlenOak.
Prior to the match Wednesday, assistant coach Karl Winkler was walking the pitch and could be overheard saying, “This has been a long time coming. It is our time.”
A boisterous pro-Lake crowd outnumbered the GlenOak senior-night crowd at the start of the match and easily drowned out the public address announcer the entire contest.
Lake seized control of the match from the outset, but wasted numerous scoring chances in the opening 25 minutes. The Blue Streaks used some nifty passes to put the ball at the foot of junior Taylor Smith with 14 minutes left in the half, and she scorched a shot past GlenOak’s outstanding goalkeeper, Alexis Crawford, for a 1-0 lead.
Lake maintained its intensity and held the lead until the last 10 minutes of the match.
GlenOak started to press the ball into the Streaks’ defensive third and kicked the equalizer with 7:31 left on the clock. They had two more good scoring opportunities in the next four minutes, but Lake goalkeeper Casey Tisdale recorded acrobatic stops on the efforts.
“There would have been a lot more (shots) if it had not been for our great defense,” Tisdale said.
Lake players had no interest in a draw, which still would have given them the Federal League title.
Senior Carol Mata drove the left side of the field and was able to get off a cross-kick before being tackled. Sophomore Alexis Meffert sprinted down the middle of the field and toed a ball toward the goal while getting sandwiched between three defenders. The ball hit the net, giving Lake 2-1 edge. The team defended that lead for 2:32 to secure the title.
Blue Streaks head coach Les Drinkwater complimented the Eagles’ “never-give up” attitude.
“The ball was getting knocked around in front of our goal and we had three whiffs at it before it went in,” Drinkwater said. “It set the stage for a dramatic ending. I aged thirty years that last 10 minutes. The ball was bouncing everywhere. GlenOak gave us a really tough match.”
Drinkwater wasn’t surprised the girls found a way to score the winning goal.
“The girls really stepped it up at the end,” Drinkwater said. “Alexis is very opportunistic. She was surrounded. She is going to be a great player.”
Page 2 of 2 - Senior captain Emily Bonnette wasn’t sure she would be able to play this year due to an injury, but fought the entire season to stay on the field.
“Every game I played this year was a blessing for me,” Bonnette said. “I walked onto the field every day hoping I would get to play the next game. I have loved it. It has been an amazing senior year so far and I hope this propels us to a lot of success in the tournament. The stars have aligned for us so far this season.”
Tisdale, who helped to secure the title by stopping several close range shots in the last 10 minutes, was walking on air by the end of the game.
“It feels great making history,” Tisdale said. “This is absolutely amazing for us and the Lake community.”