Miners girls lacrosse hopes to draw resilience from narrow loss to Herriman
With 20 seconds left on the clock in the girls lacrosse game between Park City and Herriman on Tuesday, May 1, Miner freshman Kendall Keblish rushed toward the Herriman High School net – she was the team’s last hope in a game that had not gone according to plan. That Keblish was left in this position, with the weight of the team on her shoulders, came down to what head coach Zack Sadoff described as uncharacteristic lapses in defense. Combined with numerous fouls and an eagerness to score that sometimes cut the Miners’ possessions short, the Miners had lagged behind Herriman until the final few minutes of the game, when their vision for teammates started to improve and the home team caught up rapidly. The comeback injected hope into a game that had looked like it belonged to the Mustangs for most of the second half.
As Keblish charged toward the Mustangs’ goal, the sound in the stadium rose steadily until it reached a roar, the boys team and fans cheering fanatically on the sidelines and in the bleachers. Just before breaking into the 8-meter arc, where Keblish would likely have earned a free position, a Herriman defender caught Keblish from behind and checked the stick out of her hands. The roar on the sidelines dropped with it and the resulting scramble for possession ate the remaining seconds and the Miners’ chance at winning. Herriman won 12-11.
“It was a good check,” Sadoff said after the game. “We hadn’t seen a team check like that.”
It was not part of the script. The Miners, four-time state champions, had won every in-state game by at least three points, and had won more than half of their games by nine goals or more.
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But after the game, the players and coaches came to a conclusion: Losing to Herriman was a necessary lesson in humility, and hopefully, resilience.
“I thought our team played really well,” said Shaye Henderson, who scored four goals over the game. “We were definitely pushed in our first game, and I think it definitely opened our eyes a little bit.”
The loss, now a shared mark on every team in the state, would help keep things in perspective for the Miners, he said.
“It’s good for these girls to know that they can’t have that complacency,” Sadoff said. “They have to earn it, and I think they all recognize that after this game.”
The goal is to take another state title, said assistant coach Elias Fairman in a practice earlier that week, and in the long-term, to maintain a lacrosse dynasty.
To bring that ambition to life, the team has been focusing on what Fairman called the ‘dirty work’ of lacrosse – clearing the ball, riding (trying to prevent the opponent’s clears and gain possession), and recovering ground balls.
“It’s the kind of work that nobody wants to do,” Fairman said. “This team has won state four years in a row now, so X’s and O’s for us wasn’t necessarily the biggest deal — it was getting them shaped for a fifth; a sixth; a seventh.”
But that long-term vision, or even winning state this year, is not something the team actively discusses in practice.
“That’s too much pressure,” Sadoff said.
Instead, the team is focusing on more short-term objectives – the next game; the next practice.
“We don’t pretend that’s not there, obviously,” Sadoff said. “We let them know that there’s a target on their back, and it’s well-earned, but that they have to keep earning it. It’s not just given to them.”
At its best, Sadoff said the team’s strength lies in its athleticism and its passing.
“When we move the ball well, it’s beautiful,” he said. “It’s just got to be more consistent.”
However, he acknowledges he might be too close to the situation to objectively judge what “consistent” looks like.
The team has one more game in regular season – senior night against Skyline on Tuesday, which is 1-8 in state right now. After that, it’s straight to the playoffs. Their opponents will be announced on May 5.
If the Miners prepare well, and learns from the Herriman loss, the team could continue to the state championships on May 19, when words like “dynasty” can be dusted off again. Until then, Sadoff wants the team to draw strength from the only thing that truly makes it different from any other – “a target on its back.”
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.