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Radnor’s powerful 2nd half downs Conestoga in PIAA state semifinal

Springfield >> A powerful second half gave Radnor a 12-9 win over Conestoga in the PIAA 3A girls’ lacrosse state semifinal Tuesday afternoon at Springfield High School.

Radnor trailed at halftime, 7-6, but held Conestoga’s prolific offense to just two goals in the second half. The victory sends Radnor to the PIAA 3A state final, where they will face District 3 third-place finisher Manheim Township Saturday at West Chester East High School.

It was a well-timed victory for the Radnor girls in more ways than one. Just minutes after the final horn sounded, a severe thunderstorm forced evacuation of the spectator stands at Springfield High School – and delayed the start of the second game of the PIAA 3A state lacrosse semifinal doubleheader, Radnor vs. Conestoga boys.

The Radnor girls’ lacrosse roster includes 13 seniors – seven of them received All-Central League honors this spring – for whom the PIAA 3A state championship final will mark the end of their high school lacrosse careers.

“Kristin [Radnor head coach Kristin Addis] always tells us that we want to be playing our best lacrosse in June,” said Radnor senior defender Ellie Rinehart, with a smile. “We’ve been hearing that ever since Kristin joined us last year.

“The key today was relying on everything we’ve been practicing since February and March, and in the offseason. Everything we’ve been working on was for this moment – all the extra sprints at the end of practice. We had it in us to beat [Conestoga].”

Radnor got off to a fast start Tuesday, winning the opening draw control and scoring just 1:28 into the contest on a goal by senior attack Cierra Hopson, assisted by senior midfielder Margaret Mooney. Radnor built a 4-1 lead eight minutes into the game, the fourth goal coming from All-American senior midfielder Tori DiCarlo, after receiving a pinpoint pass from behind the net by Hopson.

“We just got the energy up right away, on the bus coming here, all morning we were hyping each other up,” said DiCarlo, who scored two goals, won five draw controls and dished out four assists Tuesday. “We kept cheering each other on, our bench is always going, cheering us on, it’s all positive energy. I’m so proud of my teammates, everyone stepped up huge today, it was a team win.”

“We wanted to go hard as soon as we got off the bus today,” said Addis. “We wanted to get ahead early and make Conestoga fight back early. I told the team before the game that this is something we’ve been preparing for all season, that it was gut-check time and we’ve got to be mentally tougher than Conestoga – we expected it to be a tough battle. We just had to dig deep.”

Rinehart, who will be playing lacrosse for Loyola (Md.) University next spring, traced Radnor’s strong start Tuesday to its draw control team. The quartet of DiCarlo, Mooney, senior Sally Austen and junior Julie Breedveld combined to win 14 draw controls against Conestoga.

“Our draw team is so skilled and so gritty, they’ll do anything to get the ball,” said Rinehart, who collected three ground balls Tuesday. “We have so much confidence in them to control the game. We start winning the draw, and we start getting the momentum.”

Conestoga battled back from its 4-1 deficit, and after a three-goal barrage in four minutes from All-American senior Rachel Clark, the Pioneers tied the score at 5-5 with 7:55 to go before halftime. “You can always relay on Rachel to step up in big situations,” said Conestoga head coach Amy Orcutt of the University of Virginia-bound senior.

Conestoga’s other two goals to that point came from sophomore sensation Kate Galica, a three-sport standout who contributed in other ways as well Tuesday (five draw controls, two caused turnovers).

Radnor took a 6-5 lead with 3:55 to go before halftime when freshman Sarah Kelley scored her second goal of the half, after receiving a well-placed pass from senior Sheila Esgro behind the net.

Conestoga tied the score at 6-6 on a goal from freshman Chloe Brown, assisted by Galica. One minute later, the Pioneers took their first (and only) lead of the game when senior Anna DeVuono scored after a nice pass from Clark. Conestoga took that 7-6 lead into intermission.

Addis said, “We had a couple of card situations late in the first half that didn’t help us, but we had to fight through the adversity, and that’s part of the game.”

Radnor won the opening second-half draw control, and just 1:32 later, the senior All-American combo of DiCarlo to Mooney teamed up for a score that tied the contest at 7-7.

“I think that was the key turning point, coming out and winning the first draw and then scoring, that put us over the edge,” said DiCarlo. “Win the draw, get the momentum going and keep our composure. We had a big talk [at halftime] about staying in our game and getting the pace back on our set and keeping our stamina going, and it really worked for us.”

Five minutes later, Radnor took the lead for good when, following a series of numerous passes, Kelley tallied her third goal of the game, assisted by DiCarlo.

The DiCarlo-to-Kelley combo worked again less than two minutes later, following another long series of passes to put Radnor up 9-7 with 16:09 to play. Kelley finished the afternoon with four goals.

“Being more patient on offense was something that just kind of fell into the game plan for us in the second half,” said Addis. “We had to really step up on the defensive end and limit their top players.”

Midway through the second half, Radnor held a slim 9-8 lead, but enjoyed a 3-0 run in the next three minutes by winning several draw controls and capitalizing on them with goals from DiCarlo, Esgro (assisted by Mooney) and Mooney.

With 10 minutes to play, Radnor led 12-8, and did not allow a goal until Conestoga junior attack Melissa Hewitt scored with 5:19 left. It was the final score of the game, as Radnor kept passing the ball crisply for several extended possessions as the clock wound down.

Asked if she thought this was Radnor’s best game of the season, Addis laughed and replied, “I actually don’t think it was. I keep telling our girls that there’s still more out there [to play]. But I always tell them that good teams find a way to win, and we had to beat a really good team today. We have a bunch of hustling players, and I told our players that it was a complete team effort, from both the bench and the starters.”

Rinehart said, “We take every moment, every play, one game at a time. Today’s the day we were focusing on, and now we’ll focus on practice for Saturday’s game.”

For Conestoga, the season was over, a 2021 campaign in which the Pioneers posted an undefeated regular-season record and finished fourth in the District 1 3A tournament (Radnor defeated Conestoga in the third-place contest, 11-8, on May 27).

“I’m proud of the effort we showed today, and I’m proud of the improvement we showed game-by-game this season,” said Orcutt. “This year, we had only two players who were starters in 2019 – Rachel Clark and Megan Marengo – but we had seven underclassmen consistently contributing to our success this spring.

“This class of seniors was outstanding – the backbone of this team, and they will be missed. Claire Newhall and Skylar Carey were moved to defender this season to fill a hole and they both did a great job. Anna DeVuono and Addi Bucher also stepped up this season on the attacking end.”

Three Conestoga players – Clark, Marengo and Galica – were All-Americans. All three, plus Hewitt, received first team All-Central League honors. Conestoga seniors that will be playing lacrosse in college next spring include Clark (University of Virginia), Marengo (U.S. Naval Academy), Newhall (Williams) and DeVuono (Denison).

 

Radnor 12, Conestoga 9

Conestoga           7       2       –        9

Radnor                6       6       –        12

Conestoga goals: Clark 4, Galica 2, Hewitt, Brown, DeVuono.

Radnor goals: Hopson, Esgro 2, Kelley 4, Mooney 2, Mameniskis, DiCarlo 2.

Goalie saves: CON – Lepore 6; RAD – Jansen 3, Palmer 3.

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