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Villa Maria outlasts Carroll to advance to PIAA 2A lacrosse state final

Middletown >> With a late scoring burst, and Abby Walheim’s control of the draw control, defending PIAA 2A state champ Villa Maria Academy (24-1) defeated Archbishop Carroll, 18-10, in the state semifinal at Penncrest High School Tuesday.
The victory didn’t come easy against a persistent Patriot squad that had lost to Villa Maria by just one goal in the season opener. Tuesday, midway through the second half, Carroll cut Villa Maria’s lead to 12-9 and the Hurricanes called a time out with 7:37 remaining.
Villa Maria head coach Allie Sweeney said, “We called that timeout just to settle everyone down, and to realize that we still have the [12-9] lead, and have had it the entire game; we just have to make sure we’re still controlling the ball. So we had to hold it on attack, not force anything;  if we run a play and it breaks down, pull it out and don’t force a feed because we had the lead and just needed to control the clock at that point.”
For the next four minutes, Villa Maria went on a 5-0 run. Villa Maria junior attack Bridget Finley scored a couple of goals (assisted by sophomore attack Margie Carden and junior midfielder Hannah Young) to make it 14-9 with 5:36 left; junior midfielder Jacki Murray fired a left-handed shot into the net, then following another Walheim draw control (she finished with 15 of them), Carden scored shortly after a long series of passes to make it 16-9 with 3:47 left.
“We just tried to spread the ball out on offense, and one person would drive, and the other one would cut, and we tried to draw their defenders out so we could sneak in for the catch-and-shoot,” said Carden, who finished with five goals. “And our shot placement today was a lot better than it has been.”
With 3:18 left, Murray fired in another goal (assisted by Young) to give Villa Maria a 17-9 lead. Murray, Iacobucci, Finley, Young and Sarah Delaney each finished with two goals, and Walheim had a hat trick.
With the victory, Villa Maria advances to the PIAA 2A state championship final against Springfield, to be played Saturday at 10 a.m. at West Chester East High School. The Hurricanes defeated the Cougars, 9-8, in the District 1 2A championship finals May 23.
Sweeney compared Carroll to their next opponent, Springfield.
“We just beat a very, very good team in Carroll; they’ve got a strong attack and are not just a team that has one or two scorers, they have 11 girls who are a threat,” said Sweeney. “They’re a strong defensive team, and their goalie {senior Julia Dellarata, who recorded double-digit saves Tuesday] is very talented.
“Springfield is the same way – so it’s good for us to be playing a tight game like this, and it’s going to prepare us for a rematch of the district title game (smiles).”
Tuesday, Villa Maria got off to a 4-0 lead in the first 91 seconds, with goals from senior midfielder Adele Iacobucci, Carden (twice) and Young, with Walheim assisting on two of the scores.
“In our season opener against Carroll, we trailed 6-0 nine minutes into the game, so we’ve been working on coming out of the gate faster.” said Sweeney. “After you score that first goal of the game, everyone kind of takes a deep breath and says, ‘OK, we got this, we can score.’ We were able to push the fast break early.”
Villa Maria maintained its early lead, and when Carden tallied her third goal of the first half (with an assist from Walheim), the Hurricanes led 8-3 with 9:24 to go before halftime.
But then Carroll came back, getting a couple of free position goals from junior Kellie Ann Matey and senior attack Alex Cabahug-Almonte. The latter then scored her third goal of the first half with a backhanded shot off a rebound to cut Villa Maria’a lead to 9-6.
With less than a minute to go before halftime, Carden scored her fourth goal of the first half, assisted by Walheim after a long run, to make it 10-6 at the half.
Midway through the game, Carroll’s aggressive defense was creating some Villa Maria turnovers, and following goals by senior Madison Henry, Almonte (her fourth) and senior midfielder Amber Germer, the Patriots were trailing Villa Maria by only 12-9 with 13:19 to play.
“Carroll was aggressive on defense, just like Springfield,” said Carden. “We had some early turnovers. But we played our heart out every minute today, even on the turnovers.”
The Patriots were winning some draw controls midway through the game. But then Villa Maria started taking charge.
Walheim said, “Archbishop Carroll was strong on the draw control, but Jacki Murray and Adele Iacobucci did a great job on the 50-50 balls when I couldn’t get them myself on the draw.
“In the last seven minutes, I think the key was taking care of the ball. Everyone played their role for us [down the stretch] and when our defenders would make a huge stop they would take it down and possess the ball instead of forcing the ball and turning it over. Carroll was often scoring off our turnovers and on the fast break earlier, so [later] when our attack would ride and get back on defense, that was important.”
Sweeney said, “We play an aggressive defense; we like when we’re sliding fast, and talking with each other, our defenders have really been playing together toward the end of this season, and we have good leadership down there; [senior] Kristy Kucia is a really good leader.
And Abby was unbelieveable on the draw control, like she is every game.”
Carroll head coach Lorraine Beers said, “It was basically a three-goal game until the end, we made [scoring] opportunities for ourselves but then we lost them. We’d get the ball on the ground, and then we couldn’t pick it up. Villa Maria was just better, faster, stronger today.”
For the Catholic League and District 12 champion Patriots (17-5), Cabahug-Almonte scored five goals, and Germer tallied two.
Beers said, “Those two worked hard their whole four years here, and actually, the whole senior group that we had on the field did, so I felt bad for them. But you live by the sword and you die by the sword; you’ve got to come out and execute, and we just didn’t do as well as Villa Maria, which is an awesome team. We scored almost every time we got the ball, so we’re dangerous [offensively] – dangerous but not good enough to pick up [enough] ground balls today.”
For Villa Maria, the chase for a second consecutive PIAA 2A state title continues.
Carden said, “Winning the state title for the first time last year was fun, but doing it again would make it that much more special.”

Villa Maria 18, Archbishop Carroll 10
Arch. Carroll 6 4 – 10
Villa Maria 10 8 – 18
First-half scoring – VM: Iacobucci (Walheim) :25; VM: M. Carden (Delaney) :38; VM: M. Carden (Walheim) 1:18; VM: Young (Finley) 1:31; AC; Germer 5:54; VM: Delaney (Young) 9:12; AC: Matey (free position) 9:57; VM: Young (Delaney) 12:57; VM: Delaney (M. Carden) 13:18; AC: Cabahug-Almonte 14:01; VM: M. Carden (Walheim) 15:36; AC: Matey (free position) 18:14; AC: Cabahug-Almonte (free position) 18:57; VM: Iacobucci (free position) 19:34; AC: Cabahug-Almonte 21:34; VM: M. Carden (Walheim) 24:01.
Second-half scoring – AC: Henry 25:49; AC: Cabahug-Almonte 26:54; VM: Walheim (free position) 28:49; VM: Walheim (free position) 32:43; AC: Germer (free position) 32:45; VM: Finley (M. Carden) 43:53; VM: Fimley (Young) 44:24; VM: Murray 45:18; VM: M. Carden 46:13; VM: Murray 46:42; VM: Walheim 48:47; AC: Cabahug-Almonte 49:41.
Shots: Carroll 16, Villa Maria 34. Saves: J. Dellarata (AC) 10, Branco (VM) 2. Fouls: Carroll 25, Villa Maria 23. Turnovers: Carroll 9, Villa Maria 9. Draw controls: Carroll 8 (Daly 5, Matey 2, Cabahug-Almonte), Villa Maria 22 (Walheim 15, Murray 4, Iacabucci 2, Shaw). Officials: Kelly Davis, Sally Laporte, Eliza Scott.

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