Disappointment showed on the faces of the Mount Hebron girls lacrosse players even as they held their heads high and kept control of their emotions.
They had won every other lacrosse game during their high school careers, but yesterday the No. 1 Vikings struggled with new feelings.
Losing wasn't easy to handle, but the Vikings did so with grace after falling, 14-6, to a superb West Genesee team from central New York that ended their winning streak at 103 games in the final of Mount Hebron's 11th annual Spring Lacrosse Tournament before about 1,200 fans.
"It's hard because we've never felt like that before," Vikings senior Jill Rekart said. "Yes, I have in other sports, but never in lacrosse, so it's hard, but now we have to use it to our advantage. It stinks that it happened, but now we have to learn from it."
Friday, the Vikings (6-1) tied the 103-game winning streak set by Loch Raven in 1982 - a mark believed to be a national record. They were hoping to break the record yesterday and tie Loch Raven's 104-game unbeaten streak.
Brooke Kuhl-McClelland, who is 98-1 in six seasons as Vikings head coach, put the loss in perspective for her players.
"They've been looking at all the people before them and it's always, 'I don't want it to fall on my watch.' After the game, I went in and said, 'You have nothing to be ashamed of. You have nothing to hang your head about. You won 103 games in a row. Who can say they've played the caliber of schedule that you've played and beaten 103 teams? Nobody."
West Genesee certainly ranks as one of the best teams the Vikings have ever played. The Vikings had not lost since May 10, 2001, when they fell to St. Stephen's/St. Agnes in Alexandria, Va.
Yesterday, the Wildcats (6-0) took a 3-0 lead before the Vikings even had possession. The players from Camillus, N.Y., a suburb of Syracuse, were taller, quicker, faster, more athletic and more skilled. They beat the Vikings at their own game.
"They play a lot like we do, very aggressive," Wildcats coach Bob Elmer said. "They send a lot of people to ground balls. They're always pressuring the other team. That's how we do things. We do it in practice all the time. It's very similar, so it was easier in a sense to get ready because we didn't have to change things we do."
The Wildcats won the early draws, shook off double teams and baffled a Vikings attack that took 25 shots but not enough that challenged Wildcats goalie Kelly Fucillo, who made 13 saves.
"They were pumped up," Vikings defender Bria Eulitt said. "They knew how to hit us, and they did it. They played better than us today."
The Vikings, who seemed tentative on attack much of the game, showed some spark early in the second half when Ashley Bruns finished off a transition goal on a pass from Marta Chell, but the momentum didn't hold.
The Wildcats scored six straight goals. Lauren Burgoon scooped the ball out of a crowd with 13:45 left to give West Genesee a 12-3 lead.
Back-to-back goals from Jaqueline Giles and Hilary Fields cut the lead to 12-5, but they weren't enough.
"We came out nervous," Vikings midfielder Jackie Doherty said, "and we came out like they were going to be bigger, faster, stronger. They were fast, but we just didn't play our game. Normally, we attack, attack, and we were getting really passive in transition. On defense, we weren't communicating well, so when we went to [double-team], we'd miss the next slide and it just all fell apart."
Wildcats midfielder Colleen Bubnack, who scored a game-high four goals, said her team was motivated by the chance to end the streak even though they didn't know about it until they arrived.
Thrilled with her team's victory, Bubnack still felt for the Vikings. She had watched her sister Betsy deal with the same emotions when the Wildcats' 69-game winning streak ended in 2004.
"I know my sister's team was so disappointed, so my heart goes out to them. It's got to be hard to have to keep living up to that," said Bubnack, one of 10 Wildcats seniors.
The Vikings, however, still have a number of streaks going, including 10 straight state championships and 16 straight Howard County championships. They haven't lost to a local team since April 19, 1998, against St. Mary's.
"The coaches were telling us this is just a game," Doherty said. "It's definitely not the end of the world, and now we don't have this streak to worry about. We don't have everyone in our faces, putting pressure on us, so we've just got to learn from our mistakes, pick it up and go stronger."
In good company
A look at some Baltimore-area high school sports winning and unbeaten streaks of 45 or more against all opponents (*-denotes unbeaten streak):
59: Dunbar (1981-1983)
70: Towson Catholic (1983-1985)
45: McDonogh (1997-1999)
54: Severna Park (1992-1996)
48*: Fallston (1992-1995)
54*: City (1934-1941)
72: St. Paul's (ended 1947)
56: Towson (1992-1995)
104*: Loch Raven (1973-1982)
103: Loch Raven (1973-1982)
103: Mount Hebron (2001-2007)
67: Loch Raven (1987-1992)
63*: Mount Hebron (1998-2001)
57: Severna Park (1988-1991)
54: Mount Hebron (1998-2001)
45: Centennial (1993-1996)
57*: Severna Park (1987-1991)
46: Severna Park (1987-1991)
64: Northeast (1988-1991)
55 matches: Centennial (ended 1993)
49 matches: Liberty (2003-2005)