Country Day Lands 1st Finals Win with Last-Minute Goal in Division 2 Rematch

By Steve Vedder
Special for

June 10, 2023

ROCKFORD – The last thing the Detroit Country Day girls lacrosse team needed was to be reminded of recent history.

Which goes a long way in understanding Saturday's stunning 13-12 win over rival East Grand Rapids in the Division 2 Final at Rockford.

The Yellowjackets' Hadley Keating scored with just nine seconds left as Country Day denied the Pioneers a fourth-consecutive Division 2 title and ninth overall. The game featured eight ties and five lead changes.

The championship game was another gem over two seasons after EGR knocked off Country Day 12-11 in overtime in last year's Final. Country Day thumped the Pioneers 18-5 late in this year's regular season. While those results were varied, neither was necessarily on the minds of Yellowjackets players, said junior Emma Arico, who scored five goals.

"We knew we couldn't take them lightly," said Arico, who scored the tying goal with 1:04 left. "It's a whole new team, a whole new atmosphere. We just wanted to focus on us and trust one another.

The Yellowjackets’ Hadley Keating (18) sends a shot toward the Pioneers’ goal.“I can't express how much I love my teammates and how Hadley won the game with her goal. We fought through adversity, and the last minute was made for us."

The championship was the first for No. 1-ranked Country Day, which finished. 18-1. East Grand Rapids (16-10) had won in both 2021 and 2022, as well as 2019 before the 2020 season was lost to COVID-19.

The Pioneers had taken a 12-11 lead with 1:43 left on a goal by MC Millman.

EGR coach Meggan Loyd said she liked her team's position with less than two minutes left.

"I was feeling confident. The girls have practiced (for close games). Draws were a big point, and unfortunately we didn't enough of them," said Loyd, who said the players had really discounted the 13-goal loss to Country Day late in the season. EGR had just lost back-to-back games to Division 1 finalist Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern.

"I think we were more prepared, that we had improved offensively. We're a young team (seven seniors) and we needed more practice time to see about what worked and what didn't work."

Neither team could manage more than a few minutes of momentum. EGR scored the game's first three goals, Country Day six of the next seven, and the Pioneers four of the next five for a 12-11 lead with 1:43 to go.

Country Day’s Emma Arico (16) and EGR’s Kailee O’Connor battle for possession. Keating, an all-stater who has more than 160 career goals, agreed her teammates couldn't dwell on last year's devastating loss – at least to a degree.

"We used that as motivation, for sure," said Keating, who thought the game-winner was simply taking advantage of what was given by the defense. "It was definitely a gritty draw, and Emma came up with it. We wanted to take advantage of that. We had the last shot; we're lucky to have so many shooters and talented players who were willing to work for this."

Fifth-year Country Day coach Emma Kuehl, whose lineup included just one senior in defender Aunvil Mahajan, said she didn't expect less than another classic contest with EGR.

"They came out prepared. They had just played Forest Hills Northern/Eastern (in the teams' first meeting) and were probably fatigued," she said. "We needed possession on the last goal and finished well. We didn't feel like playing another overtime game with them. We just wanted to finish on top. It was a lot of goals to little goals the first time we played, and East probably pushed the envelope against us today."

Country Day averaged 22 goals per game during the Regional before a 19-10 win over Ann Arbor Skyline in the Semifinal. The Yellowjackets closed the season with a 14-game winning streak.

Mary Pavlou had four goals for Country Day. Millman and Vivian LaMange both had four goals, and Olivia Shaw scored three for EGR.

"It feels amazing, just a lot of hard work," Kuehl said. "Every year in my five years here we've taken a step forward. This is for the alumni and all the support they've given us. It wasn't about revenge, it's about evolving as a team. I'm ecstatic; we played fun lacrosse this spring.”

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PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Country Day claims its Division 2 championship trophy Saturday. (Middle) The Yellowjackets’ Hadley Keating (18) sends a shot toward the Pioneers’ goal. (Below) Country Day’s Emma Arico (16) and EGR’s Kailee O’Connor battle for possession. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)