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Conestoga opens states with emphatic win over West Chester Rustin

FAIRVIEW VILLAGE >> It’s still unclear if the Conestoga girls are, indeed, on a collision course to meet unbeaten District 12 champion Archbishop Carroll for the right to advance to the state lacrosse championship and defend its 2016 state title. But the Pioneers sure looked the part on Tuesday in round one of the PIAA Class 3 Playoffs.

The Central League and District 1 titlists advanced to the quarterfinals with a convincing 15-6 victory over West Chester Rustin in action at Methacton High School. ’Stoga (21-2 overall) is now just one win away from a berth in the semifinals, where Carroll will likely be waiting. It would be a rematch of a regular season-ending clash, in which Carroll prevailed, 11-6.

Carroll won its opener Tuesday, 11-8, over Strath Haven.

“It’s probably in the back of their minds but we never talk about it,” said Conestoga head coach Amy Orcutt.

“We still have to play well in the next round, but hopefully we will get another shot at (Carroll),” added standout attacker Scottie Rose Growney. “We’ve been thinking about ever since we lost to them.

“We are gearing towards that and we will be way more prepared than the first time,” Growney said.

Before that showdown with Carroll, Conestoga will face a familiar Central League foe — Garnet Valley — in Saturday’s quarterfinal at a site and time to be determined. The Jaguars beat Parkland Tuesday, 15-10.

The Golden Knights — who won the Ches-Mont crown — hung with the favored Pioneers for stretches, but surrendered six of the first seven goals and never really recovered. Their final record for the season is 17-5.

“It was a dream season, really,” said Rustin head coach Mike St. Clair. “I am very proud of what we accomplished. To be league champions and get into the state playoffs, you can’t ask for more than that.”

The senior duo of Liz Scott and Growney combined to score six times for Conestoga, and if you add in assists, they had a hand in 14 of the 15 goals. Scott had three goals and five assists, and was also a dominant force on faceoffs, winning 17 of 22 (.772 percent) draw controls.

“We had a lot of good scoring opportunities and we capitalized on a lot of them,” Orcutt said. “Getting the draw controls was key in this game.

“Liz is also very good at drawing the defense, so defenders slide to her and then she feeds the open person.”

With two goals in the opening two minutes, the Pioneers grabbed the lead almost immediately. And even though the two sides exchanged single goals over the next 10 minutes, ’Stoga took control with three quick goals in just over two minutes, including a pair by Growney.

“We had our chances, but we had too many turnovers that led to goals,” St. Clair said. “You can’t fall behind against a good team like that. The only thing that would have changed anything is if we could have grabbed a few more ground balls and a few less turnovers. But Conestoga is a very good team.”

Goals by Skylar Demis and Jess Ciarrocchi pulled Rustin to within four, at 7-3, in the final five minutes of the first half, but the Pioneers poured in three more the rest of the way to make it 10-3 at the break. The Knights halted the run temporarily with the first tally on the second half, but ’Stoga notched the next five to end any faint hopes for a comeback.

“I am a senior, so there is no next year, especially in states,” Growney said. “We had a little leeway in districts, but here it’s do-or-die.”

Rustin — which slipped into the state field as the seventh-place finisher from District 1 — got two goals apiece from Ciarrocchi and Kylie Videon. A total of seven different players scored for the Pioneers, who went into the contest looking for more assists.

“The idea is giving up a good shot for a great shot,” said Growney, who had three goals and three assists.

“Our goal today was to have more assisted goals, and we did that,” Orcutt added. “At this point, everyone thinks we rely on two girls — Liz and Scottie — and that’s not the case at all. We have an entire team that can put the ball in the net.”

Conestoga 15, West Chester Rustin 6
W.C. Rustin    3 3 — 6
Conestoga    10 5 — 15
W.C. Rustin goals: Ciarrocchi 2, Demis, Videon 2, Drakely.
Conestoga goals: Kienzle 2, Scott 3, Cicchitti 2, Growney 3, French, Evitts 2, Littlewood 2.
Goalie saves: Montebianco (WCR) 6, Frascella (C) 5.

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