Riverside lacrosse finds solace in a title run that comes up just short

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Riverside didn’t want anything to tarnish its season, or its seniors. So even as the Rams stood teary-eyed following a 12-8 loss in Saturday’s Class 5 state championship game against Freeman — the same team that defeated them in the 2021 title bout — many of the girls found something to rally around: the number seven.

Earlier in the year, after senior Emma Pickering went down with her second ACL injury in four years, the team chose her uniform number to represent its season.

All year long, intervals of seven were their markers for success: They played scrimmages with a target score of seven goals or did conditioning with 14 burpees or 21 push-ups. After Saturday’s loss, the team’s seniors (coincidentally, seven of them) found solace in the season after reflecting on what their time together represented. Several of the girls have known each other since kindergarten.

That senior class includes Lydia Oldknow, who often found herself at the center of the action in the title game and over the course of her career, with more than 135 goals across her last two seasons. Fellow offensive star Paige Fox, who scored two early goals before picking up two yellow cards and exiting the game, said lacrosse shaped her time as a high school student.

“I always say this, but the one thing I can take away from high school, because of how horrible high school is, is Riverside lacrosse,” Fox said while laughing. “Spending every day with these girls has brought out the best in me.”

Oldknow and Fox were part of an offense that struck first and kept the game close early on in Ashburn for the Rams (17-3). Though it took a few missed opportunities to get the Rams going, they eventually found several open shots and took a 2-0 lead.

Freeman (15-1), though, found its rhythm soon after Riverside’s strong start and built an 8-5 lead by halftime, with several late goals and commanding showings from senior Lucy Larkin and junior Bridget Wilson. Riverside’s deficit snowballed after Freeman’s 4-1 run to open the second half.

Still, the Rams could celebrate their seniors, such as Lauren Greig, who racked up more than 100 assists in 2021 and 2022 combined and played with a chipped tooth and suffered broken bones during her time with the Rams.

Joining her was Brooklyn Morrison, who repeatedly called the team “a family”; Emily Robinson, who described the conclusion of their careers as a “full-circle moment”; and Emma Scott, whom Coach Kristan Ash described as the team’s quiet leader and a “groundball vacuum.”

“I would say a lot of people join sports because they see it as a way to participate in school, but specifically this team, I think, is the epitome of friendship,” Scott said. “These coaches become your second mothers over time, and these girls become your sisters.”

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