Long title wait makes it only sweeter for Puckette, Radnor

WEST GOSHEN >> It doesn’t matter that Radnor’s 20-8 victory over Kennard Dale in the PIAA Class 2A final Saturday morning at West Chester East High School was never in doubt.

It doesn’t matter that the PIAA expanded its classification system, and for the first time in 2017, would crown two girls lacrosse champions instead of one.

It doesn’t even matter that Radnor was clearly better than the rest of the field.

The Raiders are champions. Period. And they earned it.

The sight of a running clock in a state final is a bit of an eyesore, if not embarrassing for the losing team. But all it did was remind fans in attendance of the sheer dominance of the Radnor girls lacrosse team. Save for a 4-3 victory over Bishop Shanahan in the state semifinal round, the Raiders were in complete control of their destiny, poised not to let history repeat itself, and cruised to their first state title since 2010.

It was a year ago, at East’s Harold Zimmerman Stadium, that Radnor suffered a lopsided defeat to Conestoga for what would be the last of the undisputed girls lacrosse championships.

PHOTO GALLERY: Radnor vs. Kennard-Dale

This season, it was the Raiders’ turn to celebrate.

Radnor’s Julianne Puckette scores on of her nine goals in the PIAA Class 2A final. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“Our hard work definitely paid off,” senior Allison Lanzone said. “We know how it is to lose in the state championship, and obviously that’s a terrible feeling. Winning today was a really nice way to go out.

“Whenever we were having a tough practice or a hard game, to bring ourselves back, we would think about how terrible it was to lose and what those feelings were like. I think that was enough to start a little spurt of energy and to get it going again. That was really important, honestly, knowing that we had to come out and play as hard as we could.”

You could say the Raiders (19-7) played hard for 50 minutes Saturday. That would put it mildly. Simply put, it wasn’t even a match.

A lion’s share of the credit, at least in terms of the scoring, goes to Julianne Puckette. The senior set a PIAA championship game record with nine goals.

That’s a remarkable feat in and of itself, but consider the pace with which Puckette scored her goals. She totaled 37 of them in eight playoff games (districts and states). As a team, over the course of those eight contests, Radnor allowed 37 goals.

And then there is the narrative: Puckette is a two-time survivor of major reconstructive knee surgery. She was twice sidelined during her career with ACL tears, and was forced to be a spectator this time a season ago, when Conestoga rolled past Radnor, 17-6.

She has overcome so much, so pardon Puckette if she was a bit emotional following Saturday’s epic performance.

Radnor plays mob goalie Alexa Solomon at the final whistle of the 20-8 win over Kennard-Dale in the PIAA Class 2A final Saturday. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

“It’s unbelievable, so emotional for me to experience this with all of my best friends,” said Puckette, who registered six first-half tallies as Radnor held a 14-5 advantage by intermission. “To end the season on this note … it’s incredible. It’s been our goal since the beginning of the season, and since we have finally reached it, I couldn’t be happier. It’s awesome.”

Puckette’s teammates had many superlatives to describe just how awesome she was against the District 3 runner-up Rams. In addition to her nine goals, Puckette had eight draw controls.

“She’s incredible. She’s so powerful and strong and, honestly, unstoppable,” Lanzone said. “You could see it in her eyes when we were warming up on our lines. She was on today, she did great.”

“Julianne is a beast on offense,” senior Nicole Massimino added.

While Radnor’s journey to a second consecutive District 1 title and a state championship was first and foremost a team accomplishment, many of Puckette’s teammates were particularly happy to see her play such an important part in the story.

“She’s just as important as everyone else, and we all do our role, but she’s a beast,” senior Hope Smith said. “I love the girl. Maybe it would have been different last year with her, but if she needed that to get here today and play the way she did, it was worth it.”

Radnor’s lead was never in jeopardy. Puckette score three of the team’s first four goals. They scored four straight goals to make it 8-2. Kennard Dale (21-3-1) did close the gap to 8-4 before Radnor scored six of the last seven tallies in the first half.

Midway into the second half, Radnor coach Brooke Fritz pulled her goalie, Alexa Solomon, and some of her starting field players. For the Raiders, who narrowly avoided a major upset in the state semifinals, it was appropriate to finish postseason play the way they began — by overwhelming their opponent in all facets.

“The toughest part was to keep everyone focused and to not relax too much in those games,” Smith said, addressing the Raiders’ several postseason blowouts. “We’ve been playing teams like (Archbishop) Carroll and Conestoga for so long, we knew it would be different, but we had to keep our focus.”

Mission accomplished.

“Coming off the loss to Conestoga last year, we all knew in the back of our heads that we never wanted to have that feeling again,” Massimino said. “The way we came out today, knowing it was our last game, we had to leave everything out on the field.”

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