Seniors Kaley Reardon (8) and Lexi Higgins (5) celebrate another Section VI title with their classmates, Hallie Fiore (18) and Jill Ford. Photo by Staff Photographer Jeffrey Barnes.
In 2011, Jill Ford and Hallie Fiore began their varsity careers at Hamburg.
That same spring four years ago, Katy Ryan began her tenure as the head coach of the Lady Bulldogs’ varsity lacrosse program.
The three have been inseparable ever since, helping Hamburg become the class of Class B this decade with four straight appearances in the Section VI title game.
“They’ve been with me since they’re freshman year, so this is my first class that have actually gone through,” Ryan said about her two seniors. “They’ve won three in a row with me. My very first year we lost in the championship, but we’ve been in the championship for four straight years and to see them win three is awesome.”
The third title happened last week, as top-seeded Hamburg captured another sectional title on May 28 in a 14-11 victory over No. 2 Williamsville North at All High Stadium.
“This is what we wanted since freshman year, to get here ever year…and we have,” said Fiore, who picked up six ground balls and snagged an interception in the win.
Fiore and Ford are the only players that have been with Ryan all four years of her tenure.
“She made us into the players that we are. We would be nowhere without her,” Fiore said. “Getting here with her just makes it 10 times more satisfying.”
Ford, who is heading to Niagara University to play lacrosse, said that the third championship was more special than the other two because it was her senior season and her last chance at a sectional crown.
“That and just being on the team for four years,” said Ford, who led the Bulldogs with five goals in the championship game. “We’ve worked so hard for it. I knew I did not want to go out my senior year without another one.”
Ford was just one of three Bulldogs with a hat trick in the win against North.
Senior Sam Eberle scored thrice and Claire Herrmann added three assists to go along with her three goals.
“We work hard, we put in the effort, we put in the time, and to get that outcome…we’ve had so much adversity this season, to come out on top and win Section VI feels great,” said Eberle. “I love it. I’m so psyched right now.”
Rachel Arana scored once, but had six assists while setting up shot after shot for Hamburg. Kaley Reardon and Lexi Higgins each score one goal apiece.
Junior Carolyn Connors, a verbal commit to Canisius College, added five ground balls for Hamburg, and freshman Paige Hafner made six saves in the victory while in net for the Bulldogs.
Hamburg held an 8-5 lead in the second half before Williamsville North (12-6) stormed back, scoring four unanswered goals to take a 9-8 lead.
Ford scored two in a row to regain the advantage, and Eberle followed for Hamburg’s 11th goal of the evening before Katie Rupp (two goals) and Katie Wolfe (five goals) scored consecutive goals, respectively, to make it an 11-11 contest with 9:29 remaining.
“They have two great players in Wolfe and Rupp,” said Ryan. “I knew that those two wouldn’t be stopped.”
Higgins’ only goal put the Lady Bulldogs up 12-11, a lead they would never give up again, before Reardon and Eberle put the game away with two more goals.
“We’ve been in every game situation possible,” said Ryan, whose club played up in Class A during the regular season. “We’ve been up and a team has come back and beat us, or we’ve been up by six and the team came back but we held on. So it just felt like the kids knew what to do and what to expect in those situations.”
The Lady Bulldogs went through a rigorous Class A schedule as they, along with West Seneca East, battled against the larger schools during the regular season.
They lost games to the likes of Lancaster, Frontier, Clarence and Orchard Park.
The Bulldogs also scheduled games against Section V teams from Rush-Henrietta and Canandaigua Academy to try to prepare themselves for regionals. Hamburg defeated Rush-Henrietta, 9-8, on April 4 and lost to Canandaigua, 9-8, on May 3.
Hamburg’s season would end in Rochester on May 31 to Victor (Section V), 16-5, in the Class B Far West Regional Championship.
Ford led the Bulldogs (12-7) with three goals in her, Fiore and the rest of the senior class’ final game at Hamburg together.
But winning the sectional title is impressive enough.
“Just to win as a senior…to know that you did it as a senior feels great,” said Eberle.