Mackenzie Wells saved her strongest speech for last.
The St. Charles North and East co-op girls lacrosse team had just endured a gutting 7-6 overtime loss in the supersectionals. Naperville North scored the game-clinching goal with seconds to go.
No matter what a scoreboard said that May evening, though, history had been made.
The team won 15 games and its first-ever sectional championship, and and defeated state powerhouses Arrowhead High School and Whitefish Bay/Nicolet/Shorewood (WNS Co-op) from Wisconsin, highlights of just how far the program had come – and what it still has to accomplish.
"I said to [the team]: 'They need to take that loss, and our success that we had throughout the year...and use it for next year," Wells said.
A four-year varsity starter and two-year team captain, Wells is the Kane County Chronicle girls lacrosse Player of the Year.
"This is the furthest we've made it, and I think one of the best seasons I've been a part of," Wells said. "So, the fact they can do that just shows that next year – if they take that loss and that pain that they felt in that moment, and they use it to push them harder in the offseason...I think they can make it to the final four."
Veronica Kluener, the St. Charles co-op coach, saw Wells locked in during the Wisconsin tournament. The team took down the state's number one and three ranked squads.
"I could tell just by the way she played, the way she conducted herself and how she talked to her teammates that she was ready to go as far as we could possibly go in [the] playoffs," Kluener said. "She was totally in, and I could see that. It was just really refreshing to see [her] focus, determination and drive."
In the first season of the IHSA officially recognizing lacrosse as a state-sanctioned sport, tangible progress of acceptance for the sport has been made within the school hallways and the student body.
"Kids within school started kind of realizing that we actually are good at what we do, and that our sport is actually interesting " Wells said. "Before that, they didn't fully understand it because it wasn't the 'real' state tournament...having our sectional plaque up in the hallway will be an amazing thing that students can see that it's an actual plaque that the state has given us; not necessarily just our girls lacrosse plaque."
"I think that's really important for the girls on the team," said Wells, who is undecided whether she will pursue club lacrosse or tennis at Michigan State.
Wells joined the varsity lacrosse team as a freshman, the same year Kluener came aboard as coach. From day one, it was Wells who helped spread the message of taking advantage of the opportunity in front of the program.
"The respect [was] not going to be given to us," Kluener said. "We have to work hard and earn it. And, take advantage of all these opportunities in front of us."
Wells certainly did her part on a team that grew very close to one another throughout the years.
"It's friends that you'll never lose," Wells said. "All the way through from my freshman year, I am still in touch with those girls...being out on the field with them knowing their every move and helping each other in those hard moments, I think i'll just miss them the most."
Kane County Chronicle All-Area Girls Lacrosse team
Morgan Curzon, St. Charles Co-op; Alyssa Davidson, Geneva; Shaye Fitzpatrick, Batavia; Lexie Kiefer, St. Charles Co-op; Julia Rein, Geneva; Natalie Rutledge, Geneva; Makayla Thomas, St. Charles Co-op; Mackenzie Wells, St. Charles Co-op, Maddie Wiltrout, St. Charles Co-op