SPRINGFIELD >> Three years ago, as a freshman learning the lacrosse ropes, Bridget Whitaker was a key contributor on Springfield’s run to the state final.
When her team fell shy of duplicating that run the following spring, then missed states altogether last year, Whitaker and her Cougars classmates found a ready made objective awaiting their final campaigns.
“That was the ultimate goal,” she said Saturday.
Mission accomplished, thanks to the No. 4 seed’s 11-7 win over No. 5 West Chester Rustin in the District 1 Class 3A quarterfinals, powered by four Whitaker goals.
Springfield (15-3) will host Garnet Valley in Tuesday’s semifinals. But Saturday’s win contributed to a larger purpose that this entire season built toward.
“The ultimate goal is to win (states), obviously,” Whitaker said. “But since last year was such a tough year, we were all so upset and we knew how it felt. We knew we never wanted to feel like that ever again.”
Whitaker set the tone out of halftime when she took the opening draw control, barreled down the field and scored 10 seconds into the frame, stretching the lead to 7-3.
“They always tell us that if you’re going to go, if we don’t get the first shot off transition, then run a play. But we’re always trying to get it right off the draw,” Whitaker said. “A lot of times, the other team’s defense isn’t set and ready for that, so it’s a good way to get a goal.”
“I think her going from the draw right to the goal gets everyone hyped, and it really gets the momentum going again,” Maggie O’Connell said. “Once she does that, we’re like, ‘Bridget, go do it again.’ It seems to encourage everyone to get better.”
It clearly helped swing the momentum, as 12 minutes later, the lead had ballooned to 11-4, thanks to a spree of four straight goals, of which Whitaker contributed a pair. O’Connell also scored from an eight-meter shot on the spurt, and Belle Mastropietro chipped in a goal.
From there, Springfield smartly controlled possession, denying Rustin the ball whenever possible.
O’Connell paired two goals with an assist, and Dana Carlson added a goal and helper as the Cougars spread the scoring load around.
Rustin attempted to make things interesting by scoring the game’s final three goals, two by Jessica Ciarocchi and a hat trick-completing tally by Skylar Demis. But it was too little, too late.
Rustin’s Maddi Montebianco made six saves in the opening half to keep Rustin in touch and down just three at the half.
“I think in the beginning of the half, we were still getting our bearings,” Montebianco said. “And in the remaining 20 minutes, we got our bearings and did much better. I couldn’t have asked for more from my defense. We succeeded for a lot of it. We got the ball, got it out and made the saves.”
Even with her strong play, Olivia Little’s goal at 15:04 stretched the Cougars’ edge to 4-0, though the Golden Knights righted the ship behind two goals from Michelle Chessock.
Rustin still has the chance to make it to states via playbacks, with District 1 sending seven teams to the PIAA Class 3A tournament. That was established as their overarching goal this season, too.
“We’re going to work our butts off,” Montebianco said. “We’re going to work really hard, because that’s what we’ve been working for all season. That’s why we came out in December, so we’re going to keep going.”
For Whitaker and company, that wait is joyously over.
“I think for all the seniors, we all knew the whole ride all the way to the state final, and that’s what we want to do again,” Whitaker said. “We miss it. … We want to be in this uniform forever. “