What began with a spring break trip ended with another state championship for the MICDS girls lacrosse team.
MICDS romped to a 20-7 victory over the Marquette Mustangs in the recent Missouri Scholastic Lacrosse Association state championship match played at Westminster Christian Academy.
“It’s always exciting to win a championship and see all your hard work pay off,” MICDS coach Kate Haffenreffer said. “So much hard work that no one besides our team knew about. The girls were proud of themselves, but mostly of one another and the program. Our motto all year long was ‘for the team,’ and they were so happy to have done it for one another.”
The Rams finished the season with a 19-2 record.
This was the fifth title in last six years for MICDS. It also was the 12th overall championship for the program.
For Haffenreffer, the team showed from the beginning of the season what it could do.
“We had many season highlights, but it always comes back to our spring break trip where we started our season out with great competition and loads of team bonding,” Haffenreffer said. “Some of our best memories of our season came off the field.”
The only two losses of the season came in March in a tournament in Tennessee.
It’s a good tournament to play in and offers rugged competition. That’s what Haffenreffer was looking for.
“We started out our season by heading down to Memphis during spring break to play some top-notch competition, including Hutchison,” Haffenreffer said about the team ranked 23rd in the nation and No. 1 in Tennessee. “We beat St. George’s school in a nail-biter by one goal in the last 2 seconds of the game. This gave us some confidence going into the regular season.
“We knew we wouldn’t face a team as strong as those Memphis teams here in St. Louis, so our goal was to work on perfecting our game to the point where we feel like we were as good as if not better than the out-of-state competition we had faced.”
While the Rams were playing well, Haffenreffer knew they could do more. She finally saw that in a key game against St. Joseph’s Academy.
“I think the turning point of our season was when we played St. Joe’s,” Haffenreffer said. “We had been playing well enough, but we knew we had so much more to give. That game, nine different players had a goal or an assist. We played as a true team and finally played a complete 50 minutes.
“Playing to our fullest potential was our ultimate goal all season. With hard work and discipline, we made great decisions with the ball and played smart lacrosse. I knew we were focused and ready to play our game heading into playoffs.”
The Rams opened with an 18-6 win over Ladue in its first postseason match. MICDS followed it with a 13-3 win over Cor Jesu in the quarterfinals.
“The team knew each game would get more difficult, and that we couldn’t play down to teams or be overly confident,” Haffenreffer said. “Teams always play us to win, and the playoffs are another level of intensity. We had to keep focused intensity and be consistent, which I think we did well.”
MICDS faced Lafayette in the semifinals. It was a rematch from last year’s title game.
The result was the same. The Rams won 17-6.
“The girls knew Lafayette would give us a good game, and we knew how we were capable of playing after the regular season game,” Haffenreffer said. “Our goal [for] our season was to make it to the championship and the girls weren’t going to let that slip away.
The team met Marquette in the championship game. MICDS had beaten the Mustangs 18-4 in the regular season finale.
However, there were no concerns about overconfidence, Haffenreffer said.
“Not at all. The championship is the biggest game of the year,” Haffenreffer said. “Again, the team’s head was in a good place – a mix of confidence and nerves. We knew what their game plan was likely going to be and we had practiced how to beat it, so we knew we were capable of handling the pressure.
“All season we talked about playing to our fullest potential. When we play hard and as a team we have fun, which is ultimately the goal, right? We wanted that game to be our best; and I think we showed that.”
Naturally, there was some pressure on the team. MICDS was favored and had beaten Marquette before.
“I think there’s always pressure when you’re unbeaten and the No. 1 seed going into postseason,” Haffenreffer said. “The girls stayed focused on the ultimate goal and I encourage them not to get distracted by press or social media.”
The Rams got off to a fast start in the game. MICDS led 4-0 less than 4 minutes into play.
“First, we dominated the draw control thanks to Jennifer Williams,” Haffenreffer said. “Once we did that we moved the ball quickly, which we had been doing well all season. It’s just hard to stop teams that can handle the ball and move it quickly. We knew we had to get on the board first to set the tone for the game, which we did.”
Haffenreffer was pleased with what she saw from her squad.
“I think the girls played a great game and capitalized on our strengths,” Haffenreffer said. “It helped that we had the energy and intensity of a championship game.”
Senior Molly Schmidt and junior Olivia Proctor each scored five goals in the win.
“Mollie really dictated our attack all season long. As a three-year varsity starter, she knew where to be and when,” Haffenreffer said. “She also saw the field really well and was always able to feed cutters from behind cage. Mollie ended her senior year as second in points in state; always equal goals and assists. Quite an accomplishment.
“Not far behind was Olivia as fourth in points in the state. Olivia always helped control the tempo in the midfield. She is an outstanding athlete who was just as much a threat on attack as defense.”
Proctor has verbally committed to play Division 1 lacrosse at Harvard.
But other Rams played well, too, Haffenreffer said.
“What’s great about our team is that on any given day we would have five or more people score or assist. So if you face guard Olivia, Jen or Mollie, we still had people who could feed or assist,” Haffenreffer said. “Brooke Wright, a senior captain, was the third piece of our midfield. We could always count on Brooke for the ground ball, the draw control or the goal when we needed it. Caroline Carr and Arden Lilly also had strong postseason play on attack.
“I think a really strong aspect of our team was our defense, which never gets press. As the saying goes, offense wins games and defense wins championships. Senior Lou Chalfant and Junior Kiki Arnold were the backbone of our defense.”
Haffenreffer added that the team’s goaltending was outstanding.
“Our senior goalie, Paige Blanchard, had an outstanding three-year career on varsity,” Haffenreffer said. “Our team wouldn’t have gotten where it did without her leading our defense.”
This was Haffenreffer’s third season at the helm. She really liked her team this spring.
“I can only speak to the teams I’ve coached the past three years, but I think this team was truly special,” Haffenreffer said. “Besides being loaded with talent, they meshed as a unit both on and off the field. There was no drama, as most girls teams have, only a love for the game and for one another. All 20 of them were true competitors, pushing one another in practice every day, and there was a level of trust I’ve never seen before on any team I have coached.
“They knew where one another were going to be on the field before they even got there, and they trusted that each of them knew exactly what to do with the ball. We didn’t have one superstar doing it all, and that’s what makes a remarkable team.”
The program just keeps rolling along.
“The MICDS girls’ lacrosse program has a history of being strong. I think with the rise of the youth game it will only get better,” Haffenreffer said. “Many of the girls on the team now went through my youth program, Red Skirts Lacrosse, and as I see them begin to play younger and younger I can only hope the program will continue to grow.
“I hope the same for all of the programs in St. Louis. The more competition and growth of the game, the better.”
The team lost a group of eight seniors to graduation.
However, the cupboard is not bare. MICDS will return seven starters.
“I think we’ll have a strong team again next year, but we will definitely have some holes to fill,” Haffenreffer said. “The good news is that the girls coming up through the program have learned our system of play, and it’s my job as a coach to give them the confidence and skill to be able to fill in those holes.
“I’m lucky to coach such a spectacular group of athletes and young ladies who are responsible and dedicated to the team, their school and making this program the best it can be.”