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Pansini’s defense helps Agnes Irwin to PAISAA title

RADNOR >> Agnes Irwin lacrosse coach Jenny Duckenfield likes to remind Maria Pansini about how the junior’s lacrosse career got started.

“I had to talk her into playing lacrosse,” Duckenfield said.

Pansini nods her head in agreement when she hears her coach speak those words.

“I really liked soccer,” Pansini said. “She told me I should try lacrosse.”

Duckenfield liked the way Pansini and the other members of her defensive unit performed at Cabrini University’s Edith Robb Dixon Field Thursday afternoon in helping the Owls to their second Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association championship in three years. Second-seeded Agnes Irwin (21-5) earned a 14-7 decision over No. 1 Episcopal Academy (21-5) in the title contest.

EA had claimed a pair of one-goal victories over the Owls on the way to a 12-0 record and first place in Inter-Ac League play.

“We had some mental lapses when we played them, and that really cost us,” Pansini, who will play at Princeton University, said. “When we started (playoffs) we really elevated our game. We knew we wouldn’t win if we didn’t play for all 50 minutes.

“Our practices became more intense, and we motivated each other to get this done.”

Pansini scored a goal in the second half and had four draw controls. AI goalie Hailey Andress credited  defenders Emmy Kiely, Brynn Smith, Pansini, Emma Macaione and Meredith Murphy with helping her shut down the dangerous Episcopal attack, which scored 13 goals in an overtime win when the teams met at Agnes Irwin and came up with 10 scores in winning the rematch.

“They have an incredible offense and are so fast,” Andress, who is headed to Cornell, said. “Our defense worked very hard today.

“I’m just so thankful that I’ve had the chance to be a part of this program.”

Pansini, Andress and senior Lila Barker were named to the 2017 United States Lacrosse All-America Eastern PA/Philadelphia Chapter region team, which was announced Thursday.

Junior Sydney Wolfington led the Owls with five goals – all in the first half – and Barker chipped in with three goals.

“This showed how well we could play as a team,” Barker, a University of Virginia recruit, said. “Our defense was incredible, and we were motivated to play well in this game.

“This is a strong program, and I think the juniors and the others coming back and the people we have coming up are going to keep it a strong program.”

Wolfington, who also plays field hockey and basketball at Agnes Irwin, is a member of the Philly Blast club lacrosse team, where her coach is Josie Ferri, Episcopal Academy’s head coach.

“We wanted to move the ball, work hard and play our game,” the future Penn State player said.

Duckenfield was pleased with the way her team responded after giving up goals to Ally Marino and Olivia Dirks in the first four minutes.

After Dirks put EA ahead, 2-1, Agnes Irwin scored the next five goals – three in a row by Wolfington – in less than six minutes.

By halftime, the Owls owned an 11-3 advantage.

“We started winning more draws in the second half,” Duckenfield said. “That was so important. Our defense had been keeping them from making the cuts they wanted to get the ball.

“Hailey was outstanding, Lila had a great game, and we’re happy to have done what we did today.”

Alex Hark had six draw controls, Maria Pansini got four and Natalie Pansini added three for Agnes Irwin.

Marino and Katie Crager scored two goals, Dirks had one goal, two assists and four draw controls, and sophomore Izzy Rohr contributed six draw controls for Episcopal Academy. Crager and Rohr also were named to the All-American team Thursday.



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