If there’s anyone who can truly appreciate the run Upper Dublin’s girls’ basketball team is on, it’s Souderton coach Lynn Carroll.
Last season, Carroll and Souderton were the last team into states out of District I, upended a heavily favored district champion in the first round and spun that momentum into a magical run to the semifinals. Now, on the eve of their second straight semifinal appearance, the Indians have to contend with a Cardinals team mirroring that run.
Just 32 minutes separate one of the two from their first state title game as they clash at Council Rock South on Monday at 7 p.m.
“Upper Dublin is playing their best basketball of the season right now,” Carroll said on Friday after Souderton beat Neshaminy in the quarterfinals. “They are playing with a lot of confidence, as they should be and beating some very, very good teams. I feel like that was us last year where you’re playing as the underdog with nothing to lose and that’s the run they’re on here.”
Upper Dublin claimed the No. 9 seed out of District I for the second straight season and beat PCL champion Cardinal O’Hara in the first round, carrying it into victories over Garnet Valley and then Abington to reach the program’s first ever semifinals. For the Cardinals, it’s been nearly a month of one-or-done basketball.
After losing to CR North in the District I second round, the Cardinals have played six games with four of them having season-ending implications. A players’ only meeting has spurred this six-game winning streak while senior co-captain Maggie Weglos has been a very visible influence on the court.
Even as Abington was on the cusp of erasing Upper Dublin on Friday, Weglos remained unflappable and her confidence spread to her teammates.
“We had the mindset that we really believed in ourselves,” Weglos said. “We’re really close as a team and we can do anything if we play together and play tough. That’s all we’ve been doing.”
Monday’s game will pit two excellent defensive teams against each other, so a high-scoring battle seems a bit of a reach. Upper Dublin has flustered some very good offenses all postseason while Souderton just carried over a season’s worth of defensive success into the postseason.
After last year’s run and with every key rotation player back, the expectations grew substantially for Souderton. The Indians have managed to meet all of them to this point, winning the SOL Continental, SOL tournament and District I titles before getting back to the final four in the state.
On a roster of really good players, the star is the team itself.
“No one cares who shoots the ball, as long as it’s a good shot,” Souderton junior Megan Walbrandt said. “That’s what makes this team special. No one is selfish. No one cares who scores the points.”
Upper Dublin has certainly been pushed to the limit this postseason. It took two overtimes to dethrone O’Hara, a valiant comeback to beat Garnet Valley led by Jackie Vargas’ defense and some late heroics from Weglos and freshmen Jess Polin and Dayna Balasa to hold off Abington.
As much as Weglos and senior Nicole Kaiser have been the driving force, Polin might be the best example of Upper Dublin’s fortitude. Against O’Hara, she shook off a late turnover to bury a huge 3-pointer and against Abington, rebounded from a missed foul shot to hit four from the line in the final half-minute of play.
“Our girls don’t play like freshmen and sophomores, they have experienced so much,” Weglos said. “When we practice, we work each other so hard that it’s like we’re all going to get better. It’s not age at this point, it’s that work being hard in the moment but paying off now.”
Every player and coach in the Souderton program has had their sights on getting one game further than last year, but especially seniors Kate Connolly, Alana Cardona, Sami Falencki and Tori Dowd. All four have signed to play in college, they know there’s a chance to make history for their school.
The same sentiment is shared by Walbrandt, Megan Bealer and the rest of the team.
“We had the same team coming back, this is what we’ve been working all season for,” Walbrandt said. “I don’t care how many points I score, as long as we win, that’s fine with me.”
Monday’s winner will face either CB South or North Allegheny in the 6A state final Friday night at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Teams don’t get this far by chance but by sharing faith and confidence in each other. It’s held true for Souderton all season and it’s held true for Upper Dublin throughout this journey.
“Nicole and I, we have faith in all of our teammates,” Weglos said. “I think it rubbed off on the other girls, they have the same faith and that’s what really brings a team together. We’ve been in this program for four years and all we’ve done is work hard. We don’t want to end on just this note, we want to keep pushing.”