Jesuit Girls Lacrosse Tells The Story Of The 2019 Dream Season

Every champion has that team that always stands in their way, battles them the hardest, and pushes them to their brink. For Jesuit, they almost didn’t have a chance to play that team, as they faced a champions style performance in the state semifinals. However, that semifinal test against Lincoln set them up for success against Lake Oswego in the state championship. In a back and forth battle all night, Lake Oswego scored as time expired to send the game to overtime, but the officials determined it wasn’t in time and Jesuit capturing their first state title in program history and avenging their 2018 state title loss to the Lady Lakers 13-12. In my combined three and a half years of covering and broadcasting high school sports, it was likely the best playoff game I have ever covered and arguably the best game I have ever covered.

With the 2020 season on hold, the Crusaders are still looking to repeat if they have the opportunity, and Elite Oregon Girls had the opportunity to chat with Jesuit’s Ella Smith, Sydney Landauer, Sara Noteboom, Eliza Naigle, and Ziggy Berkoff, digging into the backgrounds of each athlete, talking about the transition from the state title loss to last season, and being told the story of last year’s miracle season….

Lacrosse Roots

Unlike my home state of Illinois, lacrosse is a huge sport here in Oregon. Its a game full of interesting rules and differences from the boys to the girls game, a game played passionately, and one that requires dedication and precise technique. Before we dove into the miracle season, I asked the girls about how they got into the game and what brought them into it. For Sydney Landauer, its a family sport, “I started playing lacrosse with my dad and older brother when I was like five years old. My dad got me into it because we would toss in the street of our house and just pass back and forth. My dad, Mark, played at Lincoln High School and played in college. I learned to really enjoy it and really had a passion for it at a young age so I kept playing it in elementary school at OES.” Eliza Daigle was taught by her older brother, “My brother taught me how to throw and catch in our backyard when I was in second grade. In third grade I did CYO lacrosse clinics at Jesuit, and I started playing for Lincoln in the fourth grade,” Daigle said, “In fourth grade I had to decide which spring sport I wanted to play. My parents initially urged me to choose lacrosse because it was more of a workout, but that is not what kept me playing. I was very competitive in elementary school and I loved sports and being a part of a team. I kept playing lacrosse because it was fun and I got to spend time with my friends– many of whom now play for Lincoln– so I still see them on the field!”

Credit: Jesuit Girls Lacrosse

Senior Ella Smith is an East Coast girl who brought her talents to the West Coast, “I got into lacrosse in first grade! I grew up on the east coast where it was normal to start lacrosse at a young age. Right when I began playing, I knew I wanted to play as long as I could!” Ziggy Berkoff found that lacrosse was a sport that stuck with her, “I started playing lacrosse in fourth grade. I had tried many sports prior but they never seemed to stick either because I had lost interest or I just lack of time. Even from the beginning lacrosse was fun, I had started a year later than most of my friends but I didn’t mind putting in the work to catch up; it meant I got to spend more time with my friends playing around,” Berkoff told me, “As I started getting better, the sport became more and more fun. My team began to win more games as we played more. Yet, it wasn’t the winning that kept me going, it was the feeling of accomplishment I got after every goal, interception, or ground ball. It was the small things that made the game the most fun.” Sara Noteboom started in the third grade, “I started playing lacrosse in third grade as a way to get closer with all of my friends and try a different sport. After joining my first team, I fell in love with the sport and continued to play through school and club during the off season.”

Training For The Dream Season

In 2018, Jesuit’s pursuit of a state championship came to a screeching halt against Lake Oswego, who went on to make it a girls lacrosse three peat. After the loss, the girls kicked it into high gear, motivated to avenge the loss against Lake Oswego in 2019. As a freshman, Berkoff had a range of emotions from the state title game, “I was a freshman at my first ever championship game in my first year of playing high school lacrosse. I was ecstatic and petrified. I know the loss of that game hit my team hard, but I wholeheartedly believed that the next year was ours. That whole year I had been reminded that every year prior the team had made it one step further,” Berkoff explained, “First, the quarterfinals, then the semi finals, now we had made it to the state game. To me that only meant that we’d have to go one step further the next year. I think other people also took that mindset because during the off season we began to mold our mindset for a season of hard work and success.” Noteboom said the heads were still held high after the loss, “Our team continued to keep our heads up and work on our communication and fitness. During the off season, I kept building on my stick skills and my endurance to prepare for another chance at a state title.”

Credit: Jesuit Girls Lacrosse

Daigle detailed some of the things the Crusaders did during the offseason, preparing for the season ahead, “Our team worked really hard before and during the 2019 season. I played all
summer and fall for 3D Oregon with the other juniors on the team,” Daigle said, “A lot of girls were working out in groups with Lansen Villanueva in the months leading up
to the season. In the Fall and Winter, our captains led wall ball once a week, weight training, and open fields. We had very strong leadership. During Spring break, we got time off, but I continued to workout on the East Coast. I went sprinting on a pier in Boston and got some weird looks and got lost while running in Providence.” Landauer said that the team seemed more motivated with the loss, “As a team, we all decided that we really truly wanted to win state and honestly that was a huge goal leading into the 2019 season, we wanted to win and play until the last day. We all have really nice team bonding so it was super easy to give each other confidence. 2018 of course we wanted to win but I feel like in 2019 we had a drive and determination to win because the loss we suffered the previous year.” Smith explains how the loss was a personal one, something that drove her to one of her goals, “After this loss, I grew more motivated then ever. No one likes to lose, but losing in a state final game after training all season was devastating. My goal coming into high school was to leave as a state champion. During the offseason, I worked out and trained every day with the intention to finish what we had started the year before.”

The Dream Season

Every team and player dreams of winning a state championship, accomplishing a task that will forever etch their names in school, state, and program history. For Jesuit, that accomplishment wouldn’t come easy, as they had a few bumps in the road during the season. Eliza Daigle detailed some of the bumps the Crusaders faced, “In April, we went to Seattle and played Bainbridge and Mercer Island on the same day. We were excited to play our first games out-of-state and were pretty confident going into them. When we played Bainbridge, we lost by one point. We didn’t play badly, per se, but at the end we didn’t do a good job of pressuring the ball to get it back,” Daigle detailed, “At Mercer, we started out strong and the game went downhill from there. We did not play well at all and it got even worse when Kiana Santiago was injured and it started pouring. Seattle was good for us because it helped us know what we needed to work on in order to beat strong teams. I think we would have been much more complacent and would not have improved as much if we hadn’t had those two losses.” Ella Smith says they remained positive even with the losses, “Last year we faced many fallbacks throughout the season. We had a couple losses that we did not expect. Instead of using these losses to feel upset and give up, we worked harder and smarter to fix up any weak patches in our program. We stayed positive!” Sydney Landauer reaffirmed Smith’s comments, “We lost a couple of games and even though one might think we would lose some confidence I honestly think the losses made us learn that nothing comes easily and that we really had to work for our goal, winning state.”

Credit: Jesuit Girls Lacrosse

Sara Noteboom noted the injuries Jesuit had to overcome, “We had some difficulties throughout the season with varying injuries. We overcame these injuries with willpower and constantly working harder for our teammates that couldn’t.” Ziggy Berkoff referenced back to the losses up in Washington, “I think our biggest set back was our trip to Washington where we lost both our games. After a season of relatively no losses, these definitely hurt our pride. But when we sat down as a family to have the conversation of our goals for the year and if winning state was actually a priority of ours, I felt as though the whole tide shifted back to how it felt right after we had lost the year before. We were fired up, motivated to support each other to do our best, together.”

In the state semifinals, Jesuit faced Lincoln with a chance to play Lake Oswego for all the marbles. Lincoln fought tooth and nail, pushing the Crusaders in every aspect of the game until they simply couldn’t hold Jesuit down anymore, with the Crusaders advancing to the state championship rematch. In a surprise test for Jesuit, the girls talked about how it prepared them for facing Lake Oswego in the finals. Berkoff explained described the hard hit Lincoln gave them, “The Lincoln game was definitely a hard hit. This game prepared us by really pushing us to our limits. There was no way we could have won this game if we hadn’t worked as a team. We were forced to push past any personal limits we had and let our teammates have our backs. There is always the concept of team work in team sports but times such as this game really brought us together which set us up for the state game with a good mindset and the knowledge that our team mates had our backs.” Smith described the personal impact from the Lincoln game, “That game taught me a lot about myself. I had never worked so hard as I did for that win. Lincoln had beat us earlier in the season, so this rematch was very important for us,” Smith described, “We knew we could beat them but we also knew how talented they were and how hard we were going to have to work. We had trained all season to be in the best shape possible which helped us a lot for this sprinting game. We came out of this game excited and feeling prepared to face Lake Oswego. I learned through this game that there were no excuses to slow down and that, like the Lincoln game, I would have to work as hard as possible for 50 straight minutes again in the Lake Oswego game.”

Credit: Jesuit Girls Lacrosse

Noteboom says the game was a wake up call and a mental test, “Our game against Lincoln really taught us to play like every game could be your last. As a defensive player, that game really taught me how important communication was on the field. Our game against Lincoln was preparing us for the physicality and mental strength that was required to take on Lake Oswego.” Daigle noted it as a reminder to play as a team, “This game was a reminder that we played better as a whole team. When we played together and played diligently instead of rushed, we did really well.” Landauer gave praise to Lincoln’s performance, “Lincoln is such a good team and by winning against Lincoln it made us feel really good going into the finals against Lake Oswego.”

In the finals, Jesuit held a 13-10 lead with three minutes remaining, but Lake Oswego stormed back in the final minutes to cut it to 13-12. With 20 seconds remaining, the Lady Lakers throttled down the field and scored the apparent tying goal as time expired to send it to overtime. However, the officials overturned the goal and Jesuit captured their first state championship over the three peat Lady Lakers. The girls went through the emotions of finally knowing that they were champions. Sydney Landauer talked about the team mindset and her emotions, “I think previously in 2018 we were so scared to play Lake Oswego, but in 2019 it changed and were not afraid to play them. The ending of the championship game was so exciting. The win really just made me happy that I started playing lacrosse because it is such a fun sport and it makes me so happy.” Ziggy Berkoff got emotional describing the feeling, “The feeling was immeasurable, I remember tears in my eyes when I saw that last goal and I stood with my teammates holding them as the refs talked. Even though it was only for a minute or two it really felt like forever. That was the only moment I ever truly doubted our game,” Berkoff described, “It was worth the wait and my doubt didn’t last long, because when we knew we had finally accomplished our goals everything felt light and I found myself in a pile with all my team mates. It seemed that everything sped up and it almost didn’t feel real. It felt as though everything was justified, every sprint, ever bruise, and my favorite moment of all was remembering looking up and seeing everyone from my school circling us, cheering us on. It felt amazing seeing everyone I cared about there at that incredible moment, with us.”

Credit: Jesuit Girls Lacrosse

Eliza Daigle went over the roller coaster of emotions while they waited on the verdict, “When they took that last shot I felt dread. But when I saw the refs and scorekeepers faces I knew they saw the clock had run out. We were all nervous while they deliberated, so when they called “no-goal”, it didn’t feel real. I was so excited. I don’t know how to describe the joy I felt when all of our classmates rushed the field, and I got caught at the bottom of the pile. The best and most
rewarding part of winning the championship was knowing that all of our hard work had paid off.” Daigle said that she was in part frustrated by the deniers, “The ending made it more stressful and more exciting, but I wish people would have stopped trying to convince OGLA that it was a goal, even the next day. The online clock was incorrect.” Sara Noteboom described the happiness of the victory, “After winning the state title, I was overcome with a feeling of pure happiness and satisfaction. Our team worked so hard to get us to that state title game, and to win that title meant the world to the team and I. As an athlete, winning a state title is the best feeling and knowing that all of the work you put in off season and during season paid off.” For Ella Smith, she actually called the win to me after the semifinals, shouting, “I told you we would do it!” during the team championship photo. Smith went through the emotions of the victory, “I have never felt as happy and proud of my team as I did when we first heard that we were state champions. The feeling was overwhelming and I owe it all to my team. Without the dedication and hard work that this team put in, we would not have experienced this moment which will forever be engrained in my mind. As an athlete, I have trained for years and have faced many fallbacks. This feeling reminded me of why I play lacrosse and how much this sport means to me. I never doubted my team and from the moment the game began, I knew that we were going to make a memorable moment that night.”

Encore Performance and The Future

With 2020 on hold, the girls talk about how they will repeat despite the loss of many seniors and starters from the 2019 season, along with what their futures look like after Jesuit. Sydney Landauer says its about bonding and hard work, “I think 2020 we need to continue the bond we all share as a team and continue to work hard and leave everything on the field. After Jesuit, I hope to play college lacrosse and continue my lacrosse career.” Ziggy Berkoff talks about how the hiatus has affected the team, “This year would have been amazing. Anything that happened, win or lose, would have been with my team. Our coaches would have kept us determined, accountable, and in high spirits. The seniors would have led by example making us all, especially the freshman, feel personally attached to the idea of this team as a new family,” Berkoff explained, “Even though we aren’t playing my coaches keep us mentally together and the team this year feels special, as if even though we aren’t on the field playing with each other, we still have each others backs in this challenging time. I do not know for sure if I will be playing lacrosse in college yet, but what I know is that what I have learned from playing lacrosse with my team in high school, I will keep with me way beyond college. And if I have the opportunity to play in college at any level, I will not take for granted the type of support and the special relationship teammates and coaches have on a team.”

Credit: Jesuit Girls Lacrosse

Eliza Daigle discusses her goals and keys in 2020, “We lost a lot of seniors and starters, so the key to a repeat in 2020 is creating a strong team dynamic on and off the field. Our team gets along really well, now we just need to learn how to play together! I do not know exactly what my future looks like after high school, but I would like to play Division III lacrosse and go pre-med.” As for seniors Sara Notebloom and Ella Smith, they would do anything to salvage their senior seasons before heading off…

Sarah Notebloom: “The key to repeating our state title win in 2020, is continuing to work hard as a team and remaining healthy and fit. As a senior, playing this final year of high school lacrosse means a lot and bringing home a final state title is always on my mind. After high school, I plan on going to a college with a direct admit nursing program and pursuing nursing as my major.”

Ella Smith: “2020 is a year for us to prove that we are not slowing down as a team after our win, but instead we are constantly improving. Since that championship game, my team and I have been dedicated to repeating our victory in 2020. After high school, I will be attending Vanderbilt University to play D1 lacrosse and further my education. I could not have had this opportunity without the support of my teammates, coaches, and the entire Jesuit program. Our championship means the world to me, but our program is what I will remember the most.”

Credit: Jesuit Girls Lacrosse

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