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Puckette gets defensive, sends streaking Radnor into final

LOWER MERION >> The Radnor girls lacrosse roster lists senior Julianne Puckette as an attack player.

At Harriton High Tuesday afternoon, no Raider made a bigger defensive play than Puckette, who stripped the ball near midfield with 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining and gave the Raiders (18-7) the chance to control the ball as time ran out on their 4-3 PIAA Class 2A semifinal victory over Bishop Shanahan.

The win was Radnor’s seventh in a row and 10th in its last 11 starts. The Raiders will play Kennard-Dale (22-2-1), the District 3 runner-up, at 10 a.m. Saturday at West Chester East’s Zimmerman Stadium in the first PIAA Class 2A championship contest. Kennard-Dale defeated District 3 champ Susquehannock, 15-7, in the other semifinal game Tuesday.

Radnor won the first two PIAA titles (2009 and 2010) and lost in the final match to Harriton in 2013 and Conestoga in 2016. Kennard-Dale will be the first District 3 team to compete for a girls lacrosse state title.

The Radnor/Shanahan game Tuesday was much different from the Raiders’ 12-6 win in the District 1 title match two weeks ago.

“Bishop Shanahan had an awesome offensive game plan,” Radnor coach Brooke Fritz said. “Our defense really had to work hard. Offensively, I think we still haven’t gotten over the prom (Saturday night). We had a good practice (Monday) but we played nervous and we look like we got fatigued today.”

The Raiders made 19 turnovers — 12 in the first half — and were guilty of 34 fouls. Shanahan also had 12 first-half turnovers and finished with 20.

“We were prepared for them because we saw what they could do in the district final,” Shanahan head coach Laura Capuano said. “We used that to set our preparation for this game.

“We played as hard as we could. There are a lot of girls coming back, so this experience might help them get to the next level.”

Cate Cox, who scored six goals in Radnor’s quarterfinal win over Villa Maria Saturday, set up Nicole Massimino and Puckette for the Raiders’ first-half goals. The Eagles’ Alyssa Manley got a shot past Radnor goalie Alexa Solomon late in the opening half.

Puckette and Hope Smith boosted the Raiders’ lead to three goals before the second half was a minute and a half old. Smith’s score would be her team’s last as goalie Jess Gorr and defenders Hannah Tronoski, Abigail Bailey, Madison Parke, Jessica Holowsko, Kenzie Staska and Anna Seifert often frustrated the Radnor attack as the second half clock continued to run.

Free-position goals by Holowsko and Kaela Smith cut the Radnor lead to 4-3 with 7:03 left, and Goss made a big save on a Puckette scoring attempt two minutes later.

The key plays occurred with less than two minutes to play. A Shanahan shot rang off the pipe at the top of the goal cage, then with 1:17 to go Puckette got close enough to an Eagles midfielder to take the ball away with a smooth check from behind.

“I knew there was only about a minute and a half left,” Puckette said. “I knew they could tie the game up, so I just tried my hardest to get the ball.

“The girl didn’t know I was coming, and when I had the ball it was the best feeling in the world.”

Natalie Junior, Allison Lanzone, Eliza Azzarano, Missy Massimino, Carleigh Goldstein, Nicole Massimino, Sophie Breedvelt and Ellie Mueller were among the members of the Radnor defensive crew that limited Shanahan to 13 shots.

“We play different defenses,” Junior said. “This one was a little more zone-focused.”

Solomon said that her defenders made it easy in the first half, when she saw only six shots.

“We were cutting their cutters off, and I didn’t have a shot on me for a long time,” Solomon said. “I also think we rushed things on offense and had too many turnovers.”

Above all, she was delighted that the pipe on the goal cage turned back a Shanahan shot.

“I just love that thing,” she said with a big grin.

Top photo Radnor’s: Julianne Puckette,  left,  shown in action last month against Gwynedd Mercy, scored two goals and came up with a huge defensive play late in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Bishop Shanahan in a PIAA Class 2A semifinal. The Raiders advance to Saturday’s title game against Kennard-Dale.

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