For the Timpanogos lacrosse team, a season of ups and downs culminated with one straight line.
It was the path charted by the ball Stewart Handley rocketed out of his pocket and into the upper right corner of the net in the state championship game against Spanish Fork on May 15.
It didn't have any room to veer off course; a little more or down, to the right or left, and it would have missed the small unguarded space. Handley and a teammate led a two-on-one and he had the ball. As he ran toward the net he saw the defender and goaltender begin to cheat toward his teammate.
Handley faked a pass, which gave him all the room he needed to score the winning shot with 11 seconds left and beat Spanish Fork 7-6.
After that, for Handley and his teammates, it was only ups.
"I didn't even know what was going on for like the next two hours," said Handley, who also scored in the final period to tie the game 6-6. "I was just so happy. I was just floating on a cloud. Everyone was taking pictures and talking to me. Now I look back on it and can't believe we actually won. I've never had that feeling before."
It must have been quite a relief, then, given the range of feelings he and his teammates went through during their season.
First came the news that they would not be joining Division I of the Utah Lacrosse Association, the governing body of the sport. A reshuffling of teams moved the top eight teams from the second division into the top, but after a rebuilding year in 2009, Timpanogos didn't make the cut.
When the disappointment from that faded, players and coach Mike Schow began to recognize the opportunity playing in Division II offered.
"If there was a year to have a bad year it was last year and it worked out for us this year," Schow said. "We saw the opportunity of having some of the other main competition removed from our division and we saw the opportunity to capitalize on it."
Timpanogos ended the season in a three-way tie for first in its division, but lost its final three games of the regular season to Spanish Fork, Orem and Pleasant Grove. Of those teams, Spanish Fork was the only team from Division II, and Schow suspected his team might meet the Dons again.
"We knew at that point they were the team to beat in the playoffs if we were going to win state," Schow said.
The 8-6 loss burned at the Timpanogos players. The Dons took the conference's No. 1 seed into the playoffs, while the Timberwolves, led by Division II MVP Braden Lanham, overcame a No. 3 seed by beating Murray, Davis and Lehi.
Then came the rematch.
"Last time it was just like a really slow, lazy game, our guys weren't into it at all," Handley said. "We wanted to get back at them for beating us before, but we weren't really scared that they would beat us again."
Schow said it was clear from the beginning that Timpanogos took its rematch very seriously.
"They knew this was their one chance to get even with Spanish Fork, which really helped fuel the emotion at the beginning of the game."
The teams took a 5-5 tie into the fourth quarter, but it was Handley's late goals that ensured Timpanogos wound up on top.
» Timpanogos won the Utah Lacrosse Association's Division 2 high school championship May 15 at Viewmont High School.
» The Timberwolves lost three straight games before the playoffs.
» In the championship, Timpanogos avenged an earlier loss to Spanish Fork.