WEST GOSHEN >> There wasn’t a concern from coach Brooke Fritz about her team’s focus heading into the District One championship game Thursday night at West Chester East High School.
While they were the No. 9 seed in the tournament, the Raiders were the heavy favorites against sixth-seeded Owen J. Roberts. The truth is that two of the three strongest remaining teams in the district tournament were busy competing in playback games Thursday (Garnet Valley and Conestoga) for state tournament seeding.
The third team, Radnor, handled a feisty Owen J. Roberts squad, 12-8, to capture the program’s first district title since 2012.
There was no looking past OJR, Fritz said. Not when the Raiders feel as though they were fortunate to be in the title game in the first place.
“If it weren’t the championship, there could have been a letdown. But they were so fired up,” Fritz said. “They don’t really feel like they should be here, they are overachieving and they know it. If it weren’t the championship, I would have absolutely had that fear, but because there was so much on the line and they can now say they are No. 1 in the area, there was no letting down.”
Radnor will play the District Three third-place team in the opening round of the PIAA tournament next Wednesday. The Raiders have come a long way to earn top billing out of District One, overcoming a 5-5 start and losses to Garnet Valley, Conestoga and Haverford in the regular season. But they are hitting their stride in the postseason, knocking off Conestoga and Garnet Valley in the quarterfinal and semifinal along the way.
Celebrating with the District One trophy was validation for Fritz and her players.
GLAX: Radnor defeats Owen J Roberts 12-8 to win the District One championship pic.twitter.com/jWe485yEBW
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) May 27, 2016
“I think it’s awesome that this crew did it this year,” Fritz said. “Everyone kept saying that it was a rebuilding year, so it’s extra special to these guys to win it because they never accepted that title of it being a rebuilding year.
“They kind of had the mindset of, oh, well we’re going to go out and play and we’re going to go out and beat whoever it is we’re playing. That’s what is so great about them, they just sort of have this workhorse attitude, almost like, ‘What’s next, coach? Where do we go and what do we do?’
“I’m really happy for the seniors. We got all of the seniors in (the game) and they’re a really tight group and a great group of kids.”
The Wildcats (21-4) scored three of the first four goals in the opening half before Emily Games and the Radnor attack found its groove. Hope Smith netted back-to-back goals to tie the game at 3-3, and Games found the back of the net early in the 12th minute to put the Raiders (17-6) in front, 4-3. They never looked back.
“We came out here knowing they would be good at certain things, especially at the draw,” said Games, who led all players with four goals. “They also do have some really good players that will shoot out far. I think we did start out a little slow and we needed to pick it up and we did, which is good. We realized that, since we didn’t play this team before, it was hard to know exactly what to expect. We were definitely able to pick it up and get on a roll after a little bit.”
Radnor scored seven of the final eight goals in the first half to take an 8-4 lead into halftime. In the beginning, the Wildcats found a way to crack Radnor’s stingy defense, but that soon changed once junior defender Allison Lanzone and Co. settled in.
“It took us a little time to adapt to the offense they had. They’re a really good team and did a good job of sending a lot of girls from behind,” said Lanzone, who was dominant from the draw circle in the first half and added a goal.
“Eventually we were able to shut off some of those passes and really pick up our game and continue to go from there.”
Once Radnor got ahead, the Wildcats had a difficult time finding open looks and crashing the net. Radnor goalie Alexa Solomon got stronger as the game progressed, making five of her six saves in the second half.
“I think the biggest difference in the playoffs is that we changed our defense a little bit and Owen J did a great job of beating it, I got to be honest. (OJR coach) Joe (Tornetta) did a lot of homework,” Fritz said. “They figured it out early on. They did a great job of doubling up on our weak side and it took us a while to adjust and figure out what we needed to do to change the shape a little bit because no one had figured it out yet. Once we adjusted and we got up in front, they then had to force things and we were about to control the pace.”
The Wildcats pulled within three goals with 17 minutes to go when Frankie Carroll scored on a pass from Danika Swech. Games tallied twice more to make it 11-6 and Katie Quinn, who netted the game-winning goal in Tuesday’s semifinal round, scored with six minutes to play to put the game out of reach.
“This win is an amazing chance for us to represent Radnor and the community. It’s a great feeling,” said Games, a Tufts University recruit. “Since I’ve been here at Radnor, we haven’t won a district championship, so it’s so great for us to do that finally.”