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Even in ouster, Penncrest goes down fighting

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Based on the results, Penncrest was a decided underdog in the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class 2A girls lacrosse tournament.

Villa Maria Academy, Penncrest’s opponent, rolled through the District 1 tournament, winning its four games by an average of 10.5 goals per game. The Hurricanes continued that trend in the first round of the state tournament with a 12-goal victory over Wyomissing.

Yet Villa Maria’s dominance did not appear to bother Penncrest Saturday. The Hurricanes had to withstand a late charge to hold on for a 9-8 triumph over the Lions.

The win sends Villa Maria (21-2) into Tuesday’s semifinals against two-time defending state champ Radnor at a site and time to be determined. The Raiders, who dropped a 9-4 decision to the Hurricanes in the District 1 final, topped Gwynedd Mercy, 12-8, to reach the semifinals for the third year in a row.

Hanna Young and Abby Walheim led the Hurricanes with two goals and one assist apiece. Sara Delaney and Caroline Antell chipped in with two goals each.

Grace Harding had two goals and one assist, and Carly Baillis and Juliana George added two goals apiece for the Lions.

“I couldn’t be more excited and more proud of them,” first-year coach Caitlin Pettit said. “Every single one of them gave every ounce they had. And for our seniors, it was prom night so we had the drama of that going on, too.”

There was plenty of theatrics on the field, too. The teams battled to a 4-4 deadlock in the first half. Villa tallied the first two goals of the second half before Logan O’Donnell found the back of the next to cut that deficit in half.

The Hurricanes countered with three goals, the last by Walheim, her second of the game, to take a 9-5 lead with 13:34 to play.

Penncrest, though, did not go away quietly. Harding tallied her second goal with 10:41 remaining to cut the deficit to three. Baillis found the back of the net for the second time with 4:31 to play to make it a two-goal margin. George trimmed Villa Maria’s lead to 9-8 with 2:24 remaining.

The Lions kept the pressure on, but could not get the equalizer.

“The first thing we said to the girls after the game was thank you because this is what is expected,” Pettit said. “These girls have so much talent and drive that this is what we want. We want to be contenders in the Central League and in the state.”

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