Garnet Valley fights its way back to title game

MECHANICSBURG — In their precise order, these were the emotions encountered and well-handled Tuesday by the Garnet Valley girls lacrosse team: Curiosity, shock, concern, resolve, relief, pride.

“I would be nervous no matter what in a state semifinal,’ Jaguars coach Jenny Purvis said. “But four goals down? That would do it.’

In advancing to the PIAA championship game, Garnet Valley needed to recover from that four-goal deficit with just more than 20 minutes to play to defeat Quaker Valley, 13-10, in a persistent drizzle at neutral-site Cumberland Valley High.

The Jaguars will meet Conestoga Saturday in Hershey, in what has become a standard: A championship-game match between District One teams. But if Quaker Valley, of Leetsdale, 18 miles from Pittsburgh, was some sort of mystery to the defending state-champion Jags, that novelty turned serious early.

By halftime, the Quakers had an 8-5 lead, and when Emily Kraus scored her second goal with 21:57 showing, the lead was four and the crisis was real.

“We saw that they are a very good team,’ Garnet Valley’s Emily Mathewson said. “But at halftime, we really got ourselves together and realized we needed to play Garnet Valley lacrosse.’

The Jags were state champions in 2011 and 2012 and again last season, so they knew they knew the process. But they were staggered at graduation last June, had less than a breeze of a season and will lug a 17-9 record into Hershey.

“We lost about three-quarters of our starters, so we knew this was going to be a rebuilding year,’ Mathewson said. “But we didn’t feel we would be able to rebuild this fast. We are very proud of how we were able to regroup.’

The Jags regrouped to fashion a proud season, and the regrouped in a hurry to subdue Quaker Valley, the WPIAL champion, which has finished an 18-1 season. The combination of Mathewson and Kara Nakrasius was the difference.

Mathewson dragged Garnet Valley within 9-7 with consecutive goals. And after Madison Valerio and Kamryn McNeal scored to pull the Jags even, Nakrasius scored twice, both on assists from Mathewson, placing Garnet Valley ahead to stay.

“Emily and I have been playing together since we were about 5, at Rose Tree, as little kids, on a tournament team,’ Nakrasius said. “We have so much chemistry and you can see it on the field. We know each other so well. We’ve known each other since we were 5 and now we are 18. It’s been awesome.’

Quaker Valley goalkeeper Aubrie Tarris was strong throughout. But after Megan Amoroso pulled the Quakers within 11-10 with 9:02 to play, Camryn Faith and Valerio responded, giving the Jags a 13-10 lead and a head-start to Hershey. Winning goalie Makenna Mink prevented any late Quakers response.

Mathewson finished with four goals and three assists. Valerio scored a hat trick. McNeal, who added an assist, and Nakrasius scored twice each, Michelle Koscinki and Faith once apiece. Madi O’Brien had an assist.

Kraus, Aubrey Bouchard, Annie Henry and Kayla Foster had two goals each for Quaker Valley.

Next for the Jags: Conestoga.

“They have a ridiculously good team,’ Purvis said. “So it’s a matter of if we can step up and have our best Garnet Valley lacrosse, we can win. It’s been what we have been fighting for all year.’

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