Great Valley wins district title

West Goshen — It’s been 10 years since the Great Valley’s girls lacrosse team won the District 1 title. Head coach Kim Wenger was a freshman on the 2005 championship team. It’s apropos that in her first year as coach they regained the district crown.

On a unseasonably chilly Thursday night, the No. 4 Patriots defeated No. 3 Harriton, 7-4 in front of a full crowd at Harold I. Zimmerman Stadium at West Chester East High School.

“I am so proud and happy for this team. Winning the district is a great accomplishment,’ Wenger said.

The Rams’ (19-4) only lead came at the start of the game. They grabbed a 1-0 advantage after Alex Ladda fired a strike 10-meters away from the cage.

It took over six minutes for the Patriots (20-3) to get on the scoreboard, but they tied it up after Natalie Kahn’s eight-meter goal.

Both squads played excellent defense, holding each other off the scoreboard until the 11-minute mark of the first half.

“Winning draws was huge for us. Everyone around the circle did a great job boxing out, getting lose balls and giving us possession,’ Great Valley senior captain Brooke Lionetti said. “When Harriton had the ball our goal was to shut them down in transition. We knew that’s what they wanted to do so we just tried to slow them down.’

Great Valley broke the tie when Kristen Knaff threw a gorgeous pass to Olivia Muscella. The sophomore secured the ball and threw a low shot by goalie Devin McClain.

Stephanie Aker added to the lead when she beat McClain on an eight-meter.

The defense held Harriton without a goal for 19 minutes and eight seconds. Jane Henderson ended her team’s offensive drought scoring on a hook shot across the crease, solidifying the halftime score at 3-2.

“You have to give Great Valley a lot of credit,’ Harriton’s coach George Dick said. “They are a great team and they’re well coached. They came in with a great game plan. We couldn’t generate anything.’

Henderson opened the final frame with an eight-meter goal that tied it up at 3-3. But Great Valley answered right back.

After Henderson drew her second yellow card, the Patriots were able to set up their offense easily. With the player advantage, they patiently worked the ball around. They finally broke the tie when Linnea Hughes went five-hole on an eight-meter.

Four minutes later, Hughes struck again. The Patriots were able to get Harriton out of position with quick feeds. With the rapid ball movement Ashlyn Smith fired a pass to Hughes as she slipped behind the defense. Before McClain could react, the junior corralled the feed and buried the slam-dunk goal.

“All the goals scored tonight were a complete attack effort,’ Hughes said. “We had to work together for every single goal. Once we started to spread out and found one another we were able to start scoring.’

Just over a minute later Muscella scored for a second time. Just like in their semifinals victory on Tuesday, her dominance in draw controls helped establish the 6-3 lead.

“Ball control was so important especially because we were both so evenly matched,’ Muscella said. “I knew I needed to get the draws. I was so confident in my teammates that we would be able to get it and attack and control.’

Gretta Stahl scored on a pass from Ladda to cut their deficit to 6-4 with 11:38 remaining, but Great Valley kept them off the board for the remainder of the game.

“We just tried to shut them off,’ senior captain Courtney Cortese said. “Winning tonight was a big goal for us. We have been waiting four years for this so we just used the momentum and got it done.’

Cortese added the team’s seventh goal when she received a pass from Muscella.

As the clock started dwindling down to the final 10 seconds, the Patriots bench began jumping up and down, doing everything they could from not running on the field prematurely. Finally the buzzer rang and everyone in a black jersey sprinted onto the turf in jubilation.

“This feels so great,’ Muscella said with a smile. “Everyone has worked so hard to get here and I am really excited we did it.’

Prior to the postseason, the Patriots were 0-3 against Central League teams. They prevously lost to Harriton in 2013 and 2014.

“Anyone can get it done on any given day,’ Lionetti said. “Each game we played in, anyone could show up and be the hero. I think that’s kind of been the theme for us all year. We knew we could get it done.’

The victory also snapped the Rams’ 12-game win streak. However the idea of “anyone can beat anyone on any given day’ has already gone through Wenger’s mind. With the PIAA playoffs starting Wednesday, the Patriots await District 3 third-place finisher, Kennard-Dale, at a time and location to be announced.

“I told them that we have bigger things on our plate,’ Wenger said. “I want them to enjoy it tonight and have a great holiday weekend, but we’re back to work on Monday.’

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