DENVER — Last year, the Evergreen girls lacrosse team was bounced from the playoffs in the semifinals by Mead, who scored a last-second goal to win and went on to win the Class 4A championship in the program’s inaugural season.

Just two weeks ago, the Cougars held a four-goal lead over their rivals, but the Mavericks came back to win by one.

But after two heartbreakers in two years, Evergreen was finally able to repay the favor in perhaps the most dramatic fashion possible Friday evening during the 4A state championship game. With two seconds remaining, Ryn Gardner took a free shot from the 8-meter line and chopped in a bouncing try that settled in the back of the net as the buzzer sounded, lifting the Cougars to a walk-off 11-10 victory at the University of Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

“Ryn is a star,” Evergreen coach Rachel Sanford said. “That’s who you want taking that shot in that moment. She needed that goal and we needed it, too.”

The game-winning marker followed Addison McEvers’ goal with 21.8 seconds to go, which was also scored off the 8-meter line. McEvers also controlled the ensuing draw — she won all but one draw in the second half — to set up the winner. Both goals came on the heals of a more-than-three-minute stretch where Mead attempted to run out the clock with a one-goal lead. Mavericks players took turns jogging through the offensive zone before Lucy Connors was contacted from behind with 45 seconds to go, sending her tumbling without a whistle and resulting in a turnover.

After a timeout, Gardner said the mission was clear.

“We knew we had to get the ball back, so we were sending a double at the ball to try and get it back,” Gardner said. “Thankfully, they dropped the ball and our coach called timeout. She was basically like, ‘You guys have got to bury it, because if you don’t we’re going to lose this game.’ We took that and went out with all we had.”

Early on, Conners put the Mavericks up on the board first with a goal less than one minute in. Emmy Tecu followed with another Mead goal before Alivia Hunsche netted one for Evergreen with 8:16 left in the first. Less than two minutes later, Gardner knotted it up by dodging and weaving through several defenders before firing on frame, then Hunche scored again with a left-handed finish. Connors tied it again 3-3 with a goal in the final seconds of the first quarter.

Connors started the scoring in the second quarter, flashing in front of the cage, but Hunsche evened it up again despite a woman-down situation. McEvers scored from the 8-meter line to secure the fourth lead change of the game and goalie Neva Mertsching took a shot to the stomach to maintain the Cougars’ lead at half.

Emma Crosbie stretched Evergreen’s advantage to open the second half and Gardner buried another goal 10 seconds later to go up 7-4, but for the next 10 minutes of clock, it was all Mead. The Mavericks poured on a 6-0 run that lasted until there were six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

It was Gardner who stopped the run, then McEvers fired in a long-range shot to cut it one goal, setting up Mead’s attempt to stall the game.

The title is the second in Evergreen’s history and their first since 2021.

“The effort paid off,” said Hunsche, who was named the game’s most outstanding player. “We knew we had to go, go, go, go, and it paid off because we’re state champions.”

(Dan Mohrmann/