Pioneers explore new path to win Central League title

Over the past four years, this year’s senior class on the girls’ soccer team at Conestoga High School has achieved many goals except one: Win a Central League title.

The quest that began last spring came to fruition on October 14 when the Pioneers delivered a dominating performance against visiting Upper Darby to claim the program’s first Central League crown in five years.

“It’s amazing (to win the Central League),’ said senior co-captain Maggie Stetson, following Conestoga’s 3-2 overtime loss to Council Rock North on senior night at Conestoga. “Our primary goal was to play together as one unit and win the Central League.’

Conestoga, the 10th seed, opens play in the PIAA District One Class AAA tournament at home on October 21 at 6pm against the 23rd seed Mount St. Joseph Magic.

Following a tough loss to Central Bucks East in the PIAA District One Class AAA quarterfinals to end last season, this year’s senior class — Paige Kozlowski, Maggie Stetson, Grace Edgarton, Laney Stenson, Megan Nelson, Kylie Johnson, Miranda Miller, Annie Guttman, Emilie Studnick, Anna Tellefsen, Aly Maneri and Anna Pedraza-got together to formulate a plan to help achieve its goal.

“Seeing this group win the Central League is very rewarding,’ said coach Meghan Brogan, who has been with the program for 18 years including the last five as head coach. “The girls know my philosophy regarding the naming of captains and last spring the seniors took it upon themselves to get together, name captains and formulate a plan. What the seniors did last spring only happened one other time while I have been head coach.

As pre-season camp opened Brogan realized she had a very talented team with depth that included a roster of 12 seniors and six freshmen, so she decided to implement a new strategy.

“I came up with a buddy system,’ Brogan said. “With 12 seniors and six freshmen, I paired two seniors with each freshmen. I knew I had a talented group and I wanted to get the freshmen acclimated quickly.’

As the season began to take shape, Brogan’s plan seemed to fall into place with the senior leadership coming to the forefront combined with the younger kids gaining confidence that would be critical in Conestoga’s success.

Following a hard fought 2-1 loss to Pennsbury, the top seed for the upcoming district tournament, Conestoga began to click on both ends of the pitch by rolling off six straight wins including victories over Owen J. Roberts (27th seed in the district tournament); Unionville (19th seed in the district tournament) and Central League foe Garnet Valley (12th seed in district tournament).

“We learned a lot about each other throughout the season,’ said senior co-captain Grace Edgarton. “We learned how to play to everybody’s strengths and we able to bond mostly because we stress how we are one team and we don’t talk about grades (like freshman, sophomore, etc.)’

“This team seems to genuinely like each other and it has shown on the field,’ said Brogan. “We are a different team than when we started the year.’

Stetson added, “We have learned how to play to each other’s strengths and play as a team focusing on the same goal.’

While the team is focusing on the present that hopefully includes a long post-season run, the future seems to be in good hands.

“This group has definitely left a good legacy,’ Brogan said.

“It’s nice to see how good we are playing right now,’ said senior co-captain Paige Kozlowski. “During my career I have seen how important it is to build a sense of community and I believe we have done that. When my career is over, I still want Conestoga to be successful.’

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