What had the makings of a lost season turned out to be anything but that for the Okemos girls lacrosse team.
Even before the first practice of the season, the team was dealt a pair of serious blows, as two of their top returning players were lost for the season due to knee injuries suffered during basketball season. Despite those setbacks, the team not only regrouped, but also went on a thrilling tournament run that ended with a berth in the state championship match.
“It was kind of an interesting season for us,” coach Bill Prahler said. “Two of our girls required knee surgery during the basketball season. We started the season down our top two scorers and top two centers so we had to ask, `what do we do?’ We started the season against last year’s state champions. We had a few setbacks during the season, but by the end of the year we started to hit our stride. We started to win close games.”
Okemos won a number of close games in the tournament and eventually advanced to the Division 2 state finals, where it faced top-ranked East Grand Rapids. The Pioneers, who dominated the competition during the season, were too tough a hurdle for Okemos to overcome in the finals.
“Two of our losses were to East Grand Rapids,” Prahler said. “They are just an outstanding team.”
Okemos finished the season with a 16-6-1 record. The key to the season for the Chieftains was a strong defense coupled with a balanced offense.
“We have an all-state, sophomore goaltender who was phenomenal in the cage,” Prahler said. “On offense we spread it around. We had 17 different girls score goals for us this season. With all that scoring, it was hard for opponents to gang up against one or two girls. Things worked out well that way.”
Sophomore Katie Johnson anchored the Okemos defense in goal with a 63 save percentage. Senior Chloe Zdybel earned second-team, all-state honors, was one of the top scorers on the team, and is headed to Grand Valley State University next season. The Okemos sophomore class was a team strength, as Olivia Sherman led the team in goals and assists and was named honorable-mention, all-state. Fellow sophomore Alex King also earned honorable-mention, all-state honors.
The Chieftains graduated five seniors this year, and with the bulk of the team coming back next year, will try to add another state title to its collection. The Chieftains won state titles in both 2009 and 2010.
Okemos will also welcome back Bobbie Hall and Nicki Tague, who missed the season due to knee injuries. Hall has already committed to play college lacrosse at the University of Connecticut while Tague has committed to Grand Valley State.