Guerin Catholic High School girls lacrosse coach Brian Billand knew battling Carmel again in the state championship was going to be a grind.
Guerin had slipped past the three-time defending state champions by one point in the regular season.
“Our goal was to win the draw controls and stop their fast breaks,” Billand said. “We also wanted to slow down our offense to limit their possessions. In the first half, we were a little tight and not running our offense the way we should have. In the second half, we controlled the ball and looked for high-quality shots. We were able to do pretty well until the last two minutes when they scored two quick goals to tie the game. We were able to get a go-ahead goal in the last minute and then just controlled it until time ran out.”
Mariah Ross, a Carmel resident who recently graduated, scored the game-winning goal for Guerin, who edged Carmel 7-6 in the Indiana High School Lacrosse Association’s Class 2A state title game at Heritage Christian.
“It was a surreal experience that I am so glad to have shared with such a talented team and amazing coaches,” Ross said. “Our widespread talent, team effort and our coach’s dedication was truly the key to our undefeated season.”
Billand, a Carmel resident, said he believes he had the team that could make a deep run in the tournament.
“Unfortunately, we got knocked out in the first round of (last year’s) sectionals,” Billand said. “That left a bad taste in our mouths and we were determined to not let that happen again this year. We added a few new coaches to the staff and really focused on one of our biggest strengths, speed. We totally revamped our defense and put a few more wrinkles in our offensive scheme.”
Billand said Guerin Catholic had some quality wins in March.
“We kept building on our success and added more and more to our playbook,” said Billand, who has been Guerin’s coach for 14 years. “Once we hit April, we knew it was going to be tough. Having to face Bishop Chatard, Cathedral and Carmel one after another was a great test. Once we got through that, I knew we had something special. We hit the road to Pittsburgh and played two really tough teams there to get us battle tested for sectionals. This time in a rematch from last season (against Hamilton Southeastern), we got the win. If I had to point to one game, that was the one that really gave the girls the confidence that they could win it all. We never talked about going unbeaten.
“Our goals were to beat every team in our sectional in order to earn a No. 1 seed, then win the Circle City Conference, and eventually our sectional. It was not until we accomplished that (then) did we focus on winning out.”
The occasion marked the first time a girls team from Guerin won a state title.
Junior Caitlin Carter led the Golden Eagles with 46 goals and had one assist. Senior Ella Bellflower contributed 44 goals and 29 assists. Junior Clare Alic delivered 42 goals and 10 assists.
Billand said 14 players, including six starters, have graduated.