RADNOR — They have 14 straight Philadelphia Catholic League championships and an eye-popping 181 straight victories over PCL competition.
What the Patriots don’t have, however, is a PIAA championship.
In fact, Carroll is 3-6 in state playoff games since the Philadelphia Catholic League joined the PIAA and have not advanced past the second round. In the past three seasons, the Patriots have lost in the opening round.
But long-time Patriots head coach Lorraine Beers is not about to pull out her hair, scream at the sky or even send out a few negative tweets.
“It’s been exciting,’ said Beers, as the Patriots crank up another season as the overwhelming favorite to run their PCL title string to 15. “We just have to find a way to get past that first round.’
In the past, Beers has pointed to the unusual way the PIAA has decided to seed the state tournament.
As things have unfolded, the Patriots have met some stiff competition in their opening-round state games, sometimes meeting as high as a three seed out of District One. Beers has not complained, but she has questioned how the organization that oversees scholastic sports in the state has gone about determining its postseason slate.
“The PIAA claims it’s here to grow the sport of girls lacrosse, and they’d like the non-traditional lacrosse schools not to be crushed when they get to the tournament,’ Beers said, “but it ends up not being fair to some of the other programs.
“We’ve ended up playing teams like Harriton and Radnor in our first-round games, and that can be a challenge.’
But that’s small potatoes, Beers said, compared to the inequity that exists in determining the number of schools taken from each district.
“It’s really tough on the boys teams in the Catholic League,’ Beers said. “You’ve had teams like St. Joseph’s Prep and La Salle that have had great programs since before lacrosse even became a PIAA sport, and they only get one berth at states.’
That’s due to the PIAA’s position of taking a number of qualifiers that coincides with the number of district schools that participate in the sport. Since District 12 has so few lacrosse programs, it gets just one state berth.
Her calls for reform have found nothing but deaf ears. So these days, Beers is focused on simply putting the best Carroll team on the field.
And this year’s team, while certainly the favorites in the PCL, may not be ready to land the Patriots that long-anticipated state-playoff run.
“We’re close, but we’re not there yet,’ Beers said.
To that end, the Patriots have what Beers calls, “a crazy schedule,’ which sees them traveling to both Georgia and Florida to play nationally ranked teams.
On a very positive note, Beers calls co-captains Isabelle Schmitt (headed to Delaware) and Avery Murphy (Drexel), “two of the best players I’ve ever coached at Carroll.’
Throw in a supporting cast that includes Meghan Matey (Ohio State), Lexi Kucia (Naval Academy) and Samantha Swart (Syracuse), and it’s easy to see why Beers has chosen to focus on coaching instead of campaigning.
“It’s all good,’ she said. “We’ll just go at it and try and become as good as we can be.’
And while Boyertown’s Pioneer Athletic Conference win streak is not quite as long as Carroll’s long stretch of PCL dominance, it does stand at an ominous 155 games, and once again the remainder of the PAC-10 is lining up for a shot at ending the Bears supremacy.
At the top of that list is Spring-Ford, a team led by midfielders Emily Coyne (Penn State), Kat Connelly (Towson) and Brianna Cirino (Rutgers) and backstopped by goalkeeper Samantha Walters (Massachusetts).
The Rams’ only two league losses last season came at the hands of Boyertown, although they were upset by Phoenixville in the PAC-10 Final Four. If the Bears incredible string is to be threatened, look for the Rams to issue the biggest threats.
But also on the way up is Perkiomen Valley, a team that features one of the conference’s top goalkeepers in Coastal Carolina-bound Harley Barrett, along with stand-out defender Nathalie Sell (Millersville). A trio of attackers – Laura Dunne (Philadelphia U.), Christie Balestra (Lehigh) and Emma Britton (Lock Haven) should provide enough offense to contend.
Methacton is young, but last year’s leading scorer, Sara Hughes, returns, and she’ll get help from attack threat Casey Reid, while the Warriors goalkeeper Samantha Rothman is solid.
Pope John II may be ready to join the list of contenders, primarily on the strength of middie Katie Cressman (Seton Hill), All-PAC defender Bridget Rauh and attacker Angela McMonagle.
Over in the Suburban One League, Upper Dublin had its run of six straight American Conference championships snapped by conference newcomer Hatboro-Horsham last year, and while the Cardinals feature standout middie Julie Cross (Syracuse) and four-year starting goaltender Sarah Gallagher, they appear to lack sufficient experience to make another run at a title.
Where the challenge to Hatboro-Horsham may come from is Wissahickon, a team that features a new head coach, Patty Kovacs, and standout individual talent such as Lauren Irvine (Old Dominion), goaltender Julie Silverman, defensive middie Marie Dickson (Mount St. Mary’s) and super sophomore Emily Vervlied, who was a second-team All-League performer as a freshman.
Plymouth Whitemarsh looks to be much-improved, and feature standout attack Monica Dresnin (Rutgers), middies Kirsten Monte (Wagner) and Steph Fazio, along with defender Cassie Ward, and could move up if it finds a way to mesh its talented veterans with some promising youngsters.
The Upper Merion program continues to improve, and the Vikings have a pair of standouts in defender Anna Davis (Old Dominion) and attack/middie Julia Reinert (Chestnut Hill) to help them attempt to prod the upper reaches of the divisional standings.
Norristown, a program that seems to be in a continual state of flux, has standout seniors Natalie Mitchell (midfield) and Emma Hagel (defense) to help get a toehold on respectability.
In the National Conference, North Penn faces a challenge in both trying to climb back among the conference’s elite and doing so without the drive and fire of head coach Jami Wilis Behm, who stepped away at the end of last season. Certainly, the talent, led by defensive middie Emily Schulze (La Salle), attackers Makayla Bowman (Kutztown) and Sydney Lear (Queen’s University) and a strong corps of underclassmen, paced by middie Chloe Novak (Monmouth), sophmomore defender Kaitlyn Phifer and junior goaltender Michelle Dyck, should make things easier for first-year head coach Heather Mellow.
Speaking of stepping into the shoes of a successful coach, first-year mentor Brooke Watson faces that challenge in taking the reins at Germantown Academy, where Ginny Hofmann was a staple for 36 seasons.
The Patriots are hoping to climb back into Inter-Academic League contention, and feature a standout goaltender in Allie Carrigan, middie Allie Cannon and defenders Victoria Mauro and Lilly Bolen.
In the Philadelphia Catholic League, Lansdale Catholic is hoping to make some noise, and head into play with a bonafide standout in defensive middie Jacqui Jester, who has committed to Rutgers.