It didn't matter that the Palos Verdes girls lacrosse team was a step behind St. Margaret's in last Saturday's Southern Section Championship. What first-year coach Justine Beirne saw was something that was bigger than lacrosse.
"The girls were consistently positive and never gave up, and we worked as a team to develop a strategy," Beirne said. "We couldn't win that initial face-off, and it wasn't going our way. During timeouts and halftime, instead of telling them we needed to get the draw, everyone brainstormed together (on what else we could do."
PV fell to St Margaret's 20-9, but Beirne saw a team that never hung its head, even after the final whistle.
"The girls positively collaborated in the face of tremendous adversity, and they kept trying to find new solutions," Beirne said. "We only had sixty minutes, and we couldn't find a solution that was going to work. But the way the girls treating each other as humans (after the game) was super inspiring."
The future is bright for the Sea Kings. Even as they lose 11 seniors to graduation, three freshmen—Harper Skeie, Zoe Dearborn and Loryn Charbonnier—started against St. Margaret's.
"Those three played almost a full game, and for our program, that's a huge deal," Beirne said.
PV loses 11 seniors to graduation, and Bierne knows each leave a pair of big shoes to fill. But it was the consistency of sisters Abigail and Brooklyn Merchant, and Kelly Hoyt, that stood out.
Hoyt came back this season after tearing her ACL as a junior, and while not 100 percent, Beirne saw she was ready to be on the field for her team at all costs.
"The amount (Hoyt) played after an ACL tear, its not comfortable to play, but she pushed herself for her teammates," Beirne said. "The Merchant sisters often get overlooked because they're so consistent. They never miss a practice, and go out of their way to encourage JV players."
While the play of its seniors was inspiring, Beirne saw one sophomore be what she called the "culture maker" at PV: McKenzie Olsen.
"She is the one that determines if the team is giving up or fighting, and she never gives up," Beirne said. "She never gives up. Her mood is contagious, and she's the difference maker."
After first taking the job, Beirne saw that to win the respect of the team, she had to earn Olsen's respect.
"We had a little tension rivalry at the beginning, and I knew I wasn't getting the teams respect until I got hers," Beirne said. "She's going to do that everywhere she goes—it's natural leadership. I had to work really hard to get her respect because I'm a new coach, and I figured she was the one that made that decision in an unspoken way."
Beirne called Olsen a world-class athlete, and a developing lacrosse player.
"She's so fast, and it's hard for me to critique her, because I can't beat her," Beirne said. "She's got that swagger, and she knows she's a great athlete."
While making it to the programs second title game in eight years was huge for Beirne, she knows that there's more to high school lacrosse than winning games.
"I want to make sure we match these girls with with the right collegiate lacrosse programs," Beirne said. "For me, as much as it's about winning games, it's about getting these players to the next level. Not everyone is a Division 1 athlete, but they can a play lacrosse for the rest of their lives in a way that works for them."