WEST GOSHEN >> With a sullen look, Katie Quinn answered questions about what transpired Saturday morning at West Chester High School in the PIAA girls lacrosse championship game.
The Radnor senior gave an honest assessment: Simply put, Conestoga was better.
Three weeks earlier, the Raiders defeated the Pioneers in the quarterfinal round of the District One tournament. The improbable victory — Radnor was considered an underdog against the No. 1 Pioneers, who were perfect on the season until that point — sparked the Raiders’ run to the district championship.
If Radnor was to see Conestoga again, it would be this day. It’s not Hershey (thanks, Beyonce), but it was for everything.
“And they wanted to take it,” Quinn said of the Pioneers. “They played incredible.”
Conestoga avenged its loss in districts with an 18-7 decision over Radnor to win the PIAA title. The Pioneers came to conquer and left no doubt as to which team was best in the state tourney. They handled the Raiders with a flawless attack, with crisp passing and wide-open looks in front of the net. They made scoring against a sound Radnor back line seem so easy.
“They were on fire today,” said Quinn, who tied senior Emily Games for the team lead in goals with three. “They were better.”
Perhaps this state title was meant to happen for Conestoga. Last year, it came close to capturing its first in program history, but was dealt a 14-10 defeat by Garnet Valley.
The disappointment fueled the Pioneers (24-1) in 2016. They never quite got over losing in Hershey last spring.
“We always say not to think about what happened last year, but it was still always in the back of our minds,” said the Pioneers’ Paige Loose, who recorded three goals and an assist. “We might have realized that we only had three days to prepare for the state championship, but in reality it’s been 371 days since we wanted to get back here. All year, we had something to prove.”
The bus ride over to West Chester East was no different than in games past, Loose said. The Pioneers were calm, yet determined. Confident, but not cocky. And they made sure everyone touched the coveted rope one final time.
“It’s this thing where if one of us is hanging on the edge of the cliff, what teammate would you want to hold your rope and pull you back up? If you can look at every one of your teammates and say that you trust them with it, that’s (a sign) of a successful team,” Loose said. “If one of us makes a mistake and we’re down about it, some will step in and say, ‘I’m holding the rope.’ That’s really been our slogan, ever since we played Radnor the first time.
“It’s symbolic, but we do have an actual rope that we all hold on the bus before games.”
Conestoga used that rope to round up the Raiders. The Pioneers led 2-0 on goals by Scottie Growney and Monica Borzillo. At least in the early going the Raiders were able to keep pace with the Pioneers, as back-to-back tallies by Fallon Quinn and Katie Quinn evened the score. However, ’Stoga netted eight of the last nine goals of the first half to take a commanding 10-3 advantage.
“We talked about having laser focus the entire game,” said Pioneers coach Amy Orcutt, who wrapped up her seventh year. “Everyone knew their role and performed it to the best of their ability. They all played their best game, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Radnor never counted itself out at halftime. The Raiders, after all, had overcome an 8-2 deficit to Garnet Valley in the semifinals.
A second straight comeback was not in the cards Saturday.
Conestoga maintained its energy level the entire way. Early second-half goals by Liz Scott and Sondra Dickey gave the Pioneers a 12-3 lead. They led by as many as 12 goals in the final 25 minutes of action. Borzillo was the star of the day, posting four goals and eight assists for the Pioneers.
“We never really got into our attack after the first 10 or 15 minutes,” Radnor coach Brooke Fritz said. “That’s where we struggle, anyway, and we never really got the ball moving. On defense we just weren’t playing as confident as we have in the past, especially in the second half. We tried to work through it … and we tried to slow the game down a little bit. But it seemed like whenever we got a turnover or a big stop, we would turn the ball over right back to them.”
Maggie Hanzsche and Elisabeth Ingersoll were among the key defenders who disrupted Radnor’s flow on attack. And no win is possible with the solid goalkeeping of senior Jules Horning, who finished with 10 saves.
Fritz was proud of how far the Raiders advanced, surprising many teams with their wins against Conestoga and Garnet Valley in the postseason. After a 5-5 start, Radnor went 15-2 the rest of the way.
“This season was awesome. This group of girls overachieved time and time again,” Fritz said. “They showed their heart and fought through adversity. It means a lot to say that we had the opportunity to be here this year … and we’re going to have that opportunity again in the next couple of years.”
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