BUCKTOWN >> The final scores, the statistics, and the winning streak are plenty impressive.
But for Owen J. Roberts’ girls’ lacrosse team, they’re merely byproducts of a teamwide mission.
OJR advanced to the District 1-3A semifinals, qualifying for the PIAA 3A state tournament in the process, by riding a dominant first half to a 17-5 win over No. 7 seed Downingtown West on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s the Wildcats’ 13th win in a row, all coming by double digits. The ‘Cats record stands at 21-1, and all but one of those 21 victories has come by a 10-goal or greater margin.
“The goal is to take it a game at a time,” said Sierra Milano, a junior whose goal capped OJR’s rapid 4-0 run to start the contest. “We don’t get ahead of ourselves.”
The senior duo of Gabbi Koury and Alexa Vogelman were their usual prolific selves, combining for 11 goals (Koury six, Vogelman five) to lead the offensive attack.
But the Wildcats’ attention to detail and relentless effort was the highlight of Tuesday’s victory.
Late in the first half, OJR’s 10-1 lead was the product of that fast start and early hat tricks for Koury and Vogelman. Many teams would’ve been content to defend conservatively, preserving the lead going into the halftime break.
OJR is anything but ‘most teams.’ Blakely Doyle created a turnover, giving the Wildcats numbers in transition and feeding Laina Grimm with 13 seconds remaining to make the halftime margin 11-1.
“We want to slow our opponents down, give our middies a break, and be ready to turn any turnovers into a fast break opportunity,” said Grimm.
Koury and Vogelman each had four assists, as a hat trick from Kalli Mullen and single goals from Grimm, Milano, and Doyle rounded out the OJR scoring.
“We focused on making sure we come out quick,” said Mullen. “Our points of emphasis were getting the draws, hustling, and making the first play. Our energy is better when we’re strong early.”
Ava Findora led Downingtown West with two goals. There was no quit in the Ches-Mont representatives, who evened the battle for possession some in the second half and put together a brief rally to close within 14-5 at the five-minute mark of the second half.
“That was the conversation at halftime, and we made adjustment on defense, on attack,” said Whippets interim coach Christa Somits. “That’s a great team, strong all over the field — they’ll be a tough matchup for anyone.”
Somits is currently leading the Downingtown West squad after ninth-year head coach Brittney Conzentino resigned last week.
Downingtown West drops to 14-6 on the year and enters playbacks starting Thursday at No. 6 Great Valley.
With District 1 sending seven teams to 3A states, the Whippets will have two opportunities to secure a victory and qualify for the state tournament.
Tuesday’s win moves OJR only one step closer to their ultimate goal of a state title, but it’s an important step that ensures they’ll be one of 16 schools left competing when the state tournament begins in two weeks.
“We aren’t worrying about stats, we aren’t worrying about the last game, or the next game,” said Milano. “100% of our focus is on the game we’re playing.”
“And we can maintain that focus because we’re constantly reminding one another,” added Grimm. “When everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal, you don’t lose sight or focus.”
Next up for OJR is a semifinal on Thursday against No. 3 seed Conestoga, a 9-6 winner over Great Valley on Tuesday in another District quarterfinal.
The teams met at Conestoga back on April 1, a 9-4 OJR victory.
Conestoga pulled off the double last year, winning the District 1 and PIAA 3A championships. A win Thursday would serve as a watershed moment in OJR’s quest to do likewise in 2023.
“They’ve been the team to beat for us, they’re one of our strongest opponents,” said Mullen. “The regular season win gives us confidence, but at the same time we know they’ll come out strong.”
The win means a third consecutive trip to states for the senior-laden Wildcats, a team loaded with talent, experience, and potential to go much deeper than the quarterfinal round where they’ve bowed out each of the past two seasons.
True to their word, however, each player remains focused on the opportunity to set new program standards in the District tournament.
“We know nothing is guaranteed,” said Mullen. “The past few years, we were knocked out in the District quarters. Today, we were focused on our progress in Districts. We’re not even thinking about states yet.”
Owen J. Roberts 17, Downingtown West 5
|Owen J. Roberts||11||6||17|
Ava Findora 2 goals
Brinn Findora goal, assist
Sydney O’Donnell goal, assist
Abby Walter goal
Katie Goodby 4 saves
Jill Geffert 2 saves
OWEN J. ROBERTS
Gabbi Koury 6 goals, 4 assists
Alexa Vogelman 5 goals, 4 assists
Kalli Mullen 3 goals
Blakely Doyle goal, assist
Laina Grimm goal
Sierra Milano goal
Ava Clemson assist
Korrigan Sweeney 4 saves
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