Bobcats’ Title Hopes Dashed in the Final Seconds Against Rye

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Even though she’s been coaching at various levels for more than two decades now, Gail Lozado never saw it coming, never figured her Byram Hills girls’ lacrosse team would do much more than break even this season, never anticipated the Bobcats could challenge for a sectional title.

Marissa Miller of Byram Hills passes the ball during the Bobcats' Class C title clash against Rye on Thursday. Photo by Andy Jacobs

“I really thought we’d be .500,” she wasn’t afraid to admit last Thursday afternoon.

Only moments earlier, though, Lozado had been pacing the sidelines at Fox Lane’s Memorial Stadium as her upstart Bobcats battled Rye nearly goal for goal in the Section 1, Class C championship game. Had Emily Byrne’s left-handed shot off a free position not been deflected high and wide of the goal  with five seconds remaining, the Bobcats just might have provided their new coach with one more big surprise.

Instead, Rye was able to foil a final desperation play by the Bobcats in the final two seconds to emerge with a dramatic 12-11 victory and advance to the state’s regional playoff game on Wednesday against Section 9’s Red Hook. The Bobcats, bidding to win the first title in school history, had to settle for the runner-up plaque and the consolation of exceeding their coach’s expectations.

“I am shocked at how well we played,” said Lozado after the Bobcats’ attempt to overcome a three-goal deficit late in the game fell just short. “I really think we played a great game. Anybody could’ve won today.  We just didn’t do it.”

Katie Byrne scored five goals, including three in succession for the Bobcats in the second half as they tried to recover after the fourth-seeded Garnets opened up a 10-7 lead. She tallied twice within 44 seconds to move the seventh-seeded Bobcats to within 11-10 with eight and a half minutes left, but they could never quite catch up.

In fact, Byrne was not even on the field when the final horn sounded. She had been given a yellow card with 1:57 remaining for protesting a call after an official ruled Rye’s Kate Whiston beat her to the ball following a misfired shot by Claudia Hammerschmidt. Teammate Helena Rosen had just been whistled for a yellow card a minute earlier.

“You know what, there’s no question I thought she was closer,” said Lozado about the call against Byrne, who reacted by knocking the ball away in disgust. “But I’m not standing where the official is. Composure’s important. These young kids, nothing you can do about it. She felt strongly about it, but it still didn’t affect us. We still came back. When you think about it, we were down by two players and we still gave ’em a run for it. So I’m very happy about the game.”

The Garnets’ Emma Brinkman scored her second goal of the day with 6:48 left on the clock, stretching the Rye lead to 12-10. The Bobcats lost the ensuing draw and had to endure the frustration of seeing Rye take  three and a half minutes off the clock. Following the controversial call against Byrne, the Garnets were on the verge of running out the clock for good when Momo Yoshida slipped on the turf and lost the ball.

Byram Hills quickly took advantage, as Hammerschmidt scored her third goal of the day on a free- position opportunity with 34 seconds remaining. That set the stage for Emily Byrne’s ill-fated shot from a wide angle left of the goal with just five seconds remaining. After the ball sailed out of bounds, leaving just two seconds for a Bobcat miracle, Hammerschmidt tried to feed Marissa Miller in front but the Garnets’ Tori Virtue stepped in the way of the pass and the giddy Garnets began celebrating their narrow victory.

“Even though they were up by two and we had two yellow cards, we got the ball back, scored a goal, and with five seconds we had the opportunity,” said Lozado. “That’s what this is all about. You never know and we capitalized on the opportunity.”

The Bobcats, who finished their season at 12-7-1, had crushed Irvington 16-6 two days earlier at Valhalla High School in the semifinals as Hammerschmidt scored six goals, Emily Byrne scored four and Alex Fritz finished with three, to go along with three assists. But against the Garnets, Byram never once held the lead. Goals by Emily Byrne and Emma Benzie 18 seconds apart in the final 30 seconds of the first half enabled the Bobcats to walk off the field at intermission deadlocked at 6-6.

Rye took the lead for good just 33 seconds into the second half on a goal by Annie Van Wagenen. Scarlett Sulliman, who led the Garnets with four goals, supplied her third of the game less than two minutes later and the Bobcats spent the rest of the afternoon trying to play catch-up.

“Our team can handle playing catch-up,” said Lozado. “So I wasn’t worried in the least. I was a little taken aback by the two yellows but, again, the outcome was we played with them right to the end. This is the first time Byram Hills has ever been this far, so I think it’s been a great accomplishment for the team.”

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