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District 1 Class 3A Girls Lacrosse: Roth has Penncrest believing with upset of Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — The Penncrest girls lacrosse team has developed a flair for the dramatic in this year’s District 1 Class 3A tournament.

Two days after defeating Downingtown East in a double-overtime thriller, the No. 4 Lions stunned top-seeded Springfield with a goal in the final seconds of regulation.

Kaitlyn Roth received a pass from Kat Harding in front of the net and zipped a shot past Springfield goalie Geena Augello with 13.8 seconds to play, lifting the Lions to a 13-12 victory in the semifinal round.

Penncrest will meet No. 2 Owen J. Roberts for in the district championship game Wednesday at a time and location to be determined. OJR conquered No. 3 Conestoga, 7-4, in the other semifinal.

“It’s amazing,” Roth said. “I just knew I had to shoot it. If I missed it, I knew we were still going to overtime and we still had a chance.”

Roth saved the Lions from another extra session, much to the pleasure of coach Caitlin Morgan, who was fluttering with excitement after an emotionally draining win. The Lions have been on the steady climb since Morgan’s arrival, but the team struggled to get past the second round in districts in recent years. The Lions’ win in the quarterfinals clinched the team’s first PIAA tournament berth since 2018.

“We’ve been talking about this since we lost in the playoffs last year,” Morgan said. “We knew we were so much better than that and we worked all offseason … and realized how possible this is to get here. The girls worked so hard leading up to this and we started to see things coming together this season.

“And after the win the other night I told them, ‘Do you guys believe now?’ Finally they do, and they’re all in.”

Harding, who was the hero Tuesday night, fed a perfect pass to Roth for the game winner.

“I saw that I was getting doubled, and she beat her defender and she was one-on-one with the goalie,” Harding said. “So I knew she was a sure thing and she was gonna make that shot.”

Harding scored on a free-position shot with 11:23 to play to put Penncrest ahead, 12-11. The goal came moments after Kate Stanton tied the game at 11. The Lions had trailed, 11-7, when Devin Buggy scored for the Cougars with 19:48 to play. It was the second time the Lions faced a four-goal deficit, as they were down 8-4 with three minutes to go in the first half before making a late push to get back within one.

This wild and thoroughly enjoyable slugfest started with the Lions asserting themselves on attack in the early minutes of regulation. Penncrest (18-3) held a 4-0 advantage four minutes in, but Springfield (18-2) fired back with eight straight goals. The Lions were never deterred. They believed they could come back on a Springfield team that handed them a 16-7 loss three weeks ago.

“I think that we just know that it’s one goal at a time you get the ball and you score, you get the ball and you score and if you lose the ball, then you just get it back,” Harding said. “So it’s just that … relentless mindset that all of us have that we all know that we can do it.”

Roth scored all three of her goals after halftime. When Springfield extended its lead to 11-7 five minutes into the second, Roth reignited the Lions with back-to-back tallies in a span of 56 seconds.

“We were in that situation before when we played them earlier in the first game. We were up and they came back a lot and kept scoring,” Roth said. “This time we knew that we could do it and we knew we couldn’t let that happen again.”

Stanton, Harding and Roth all recorded hat tricks. Stanton scored her 200th career goal early in the first half.

Sara Knasiak had only five saves, but she denied a Springfield shot late in regulation to preserve the 12-12 tie. Taryn Tagtmeir, Celeste Cahill and Mira Kuttymartin were among the defensive standouts for the Lions.

“I’m just so proud of every single one of them because we are the normal Penncrest anymore,” Morgan said. “I’m so happy that we are changing this. It’s not just a one-time deal, we are building a program and it starts with those girls.”

Mia Valerio’s goal with 6:32 tied the game at 12. Maddie Kane netted three goals for the Lions, who will play Conestoga in the third-place game next Tuesday.

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