Spurred by five goals from Ally Merten and clutch goaltending from Lexi Swisher, the Vikings advance to their second consecutive state championship game with a 13-11 victory over Lebanon in the state semifinals at Mentor High School Friday. Swisher had a number of clutch saves, tallying 14.
“Always a key to the game is Lexi Swisher at goal,” Hoover High head coach Jeff McCann said. “She stopped a lot of shots for us.”
Merten led Hoover in scoring with five goals, and Rachel Eastman followed with three, but it was Ally Jajack’s heads-up play that broke Lebanon’s furious comeback and sealed the victory. Lebanon had just scored two unanswered goals and cut a seemingly insurmountable five-goal deficit down to three with under seven to play.
After Lebanon goalie Siaah McMullen blocked a Hoover shot, it looked as if Lebanon would get the ball back. However, McMullen lost track of the ball as it rolled away from the goal toward Jajack. McMullen turned the wrong way, thinking the ball was right next to her, and left the net wide open for Jajack to sweep it in for the score.
Lebanon continued to fight back after Jajack’s score, tacking on two more goals in the final four minutes. But the deficit proved to be too much. Brooke Cranmer led the Warriors with a game-high six goals.
Hoover makes its second consecutive appearance in the state finals, where they lost to Anderson 14-8. The Vikings return to the finals despite losing seven starters to graduation.
“The main thing is that they remember they deserve to be here,” McCann said. “I don’t want them to play timid or scared.”
Hoover High girls lacrosse plays at 11 a.m. today at Hawken School.