McNeal, Mink get Garnet Valley going in District 1 victory over North Penn

CONCORD — Winning playoff games is nothing new for many of the Garnet Valley girls lacrosse players. The Jaguars have captured three of the last four PIAA championships.

Taking part in playoff games has been something new for several members of the 2015 Jaguars squad, which got strong play on the field from freshman Kamryn McNeal and a solid effort in goal from ninth-grader Makenna Mink as GV opened play in the district tournament with a 16-6 decision over North Penn at Moe DeFrank Field Tuesday afternoon.

McNeal scored five goals and added an assist in her first district action, while Mink, who became the starter last week when sophomore Lauren Kinnee suffered a knee injury, finished with five saves in her initial playoff appearance.

“I was excited about the playoffs,’ McNeal said. “I didn’t want to let anything get in my head. I just wanted to play.

“We worked well off each other and ran a lot of different plays.’

She got on the scoreboard early, and by halftime had four goals as Garnet Valley claimed a 10-2 advantage.

Mink stopped the first shot she faced and had three saves against only two goals by the break.

“I was nervous,’ she said. “But I knew I’d have a great defense in front of me. And making that first save made a big difference. The coaches told us what to expect from that team, and we have to just go out there and try our hardest.

“I’m so lucky to have such a great goalie coach (Kate Stroup, who earned two state championship medals as Garnet Valley’s goalie and one as the team’s goalie coach). She’s been such a big help to me, and I’ve learned so much from her.’

The freshmen weren’t the only contributors for Garnet Valley. Sophomore Madi O’Brien and junior Emily Mathewson both got two goals and a pair of assists, junior Kara Nakrasius scored twice, and senior Madison Valerio had two goals, one assist and three draw controls.

“It’s great coming into a game like this with a clean slate,’ Nakrasius said, referring to Garnet Valley’s 10-8 regular-season record. “We know we have to just play our game and work together, and today we did a great job of working with each other.

“(Mink) came up big for us, and that really helped, too.’

The Garnet Valley defensive unit included Michelle Koscinski, Tish Minford, Kylie Young, Mathewson, Beth Hofmann, Rachel Glenn and Nakrasius.

“We got a fresh start yesterday at practice,’ Mathewson said. “The freshmen really want to learn and they take guidance and criticism. But we’re also learning from them.’

Bri O’Donnell scored two goals for North Penn.

“The girls went through a lot this year,’ Maidens head coach Heather Mellow said. “With the coaching change, they didn’t have a coach for a while and had to do a lot on their own.

“They were like a family and made up their minds to keep fighting on. We lose 12 seniors, but we did have some depth on the team. Today, Emily Schulze, who is a do-everything player for us, just was too sick to do very much out there.

“That’s not to make excuses. Garnet Valley is a tough team, and good luck to them. We know we’ll have to be ready for the challenges that will come our way next season.’

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