Hawks upend defending champs MHS for state title berth

The University High girls’ lacrosse team fended off a late rally to upset top-seeded Morgantown, 9-8, on May 12, to clinch a berth in the West Virginia Scholastic Lacrosse Association state championship game.

The Hawks (18-3) continued their eleven game win streak behind four goals by senior MacKenzie Slavensky.

“They played their guts out,” UHS head coach Kevin Armstrong said. “They just played their guts out. Morgantown, we knew they were going to punch, they’re a great team. But our girls were resilient, they didn’t lose faith. They kept pushing and they wanted it really bad. They took it

to them.”

The Mohigans (15-4) struck first with a goal by senior Maddie Bal 42 seconds after the faceoff.

Five minutes later, University responded with a three goal run within, two by Slavensky and one by Logan White, all within under two minutes of each other.

Kylie Bennett fired back for Morgantown 30 seconds after Slavensky’s second goal to cut the Hawk lead to one, 3-2.

Hawk sophomore attacker Mallory Napolillo bookended a six-minute defensive battle with a couple of goals at the 15:58 and 9:42 marks to put UHS up, 5-2. Bennett scored with a minute and 45 seconds left to give the Mohigans some momentum going into the half, down, 5-3.

The momentum didn’t last as the Hawks kicked off the second half with a couple of goals by Morgan Crocco and Olivia Wills to give UHS a 7-3 lead.

Bennett clinched a hat trick with her third goal on a penalty shot with 17:33 left in the game, but Slavensky responded three minutes later with a hat trick of her own to keep it a four goal Hawk lead, 8-4.

After nine more minutes of defensive stalemate, Morgantown junior Tori Ness nabbed a couple of goals to cut the Hawk lead to two, 8-6.

Slavensky scored with four minutes left to put UHS up three, 9-6.

Bal and Bennett scored for Morgantown with under a minute to go, but it was too-little, too-late for the Mohigans.

UHS goalie Riley Pharis nabbed 16 saves off of 23 Mohigan shots.

“I can’t even explain (how big the win is),” Pharis said. “From the beginning of the season, Kevin was the real one who believed in us, he’s the one who got us thinking we can actually make it to state. Kevin has been there every step of the way and he has been fantastic and I’m truly honored to be a part of this team.”

After big wins over Buckhannon-Upshur and MHS in the playoffs, the Hawks will play George Washington in the state championship game, which will be held at Morgantown High on May 19. UHS split the season series against the Patriots. G.W. beat Fairmont Senior, 9-8, in overtime to advance to the final.

“Nobody thought of University High to be in the state finals at the beginning of this year,” Armstrong said. “When we lost to GW, Fairmont and Morgantown at the beginning of the season, they counted us out completely. Then we came back and beat Morgantown, Fairmont, G.W. and Morgantown again to go to states. This team is on a roll and we’re pumped.”

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