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PIAA Class 2A Girls Lacrosse: Believe it, Cardinal O’Hara in final four

LEESPORT — Four days after earning its first PIAA girls lacrosse state tournament win, Cardinal O’Hara advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals with a 16-12 victory against District 3 champion York Catholic Saturday at Schuylkill Valley High School.

“Making the final four is a crazy feeling; I can’t even believe it,” said Cardinal O’Hara junior attack Ellie Miller, who scored five goals. “Thanks to our practices with Coach Duck (head coach Jen Duckenfield) this week, we really knew what we needed to do, and we knew exactly what York Catholic wanted to do – we practiced all their plays and how to defend them.”

“I am super proud of our girls. We had players step up today and raise the bar for playing consistently and smart. Duckenfield said.”

Cardinal O’Hara forced numerous York Catholic turnovers, particularly in the first half, as the Lions held a 7-3 halftime lead.

“I think our midfielders had some great rides in the midfield, with sophomore Claire Natoli (four draw controls, three ground balls) and junior Ana Ciminera,” Duckenfield said. “And our defense, with Sophia Brown, Emily Camuti and Kristen Kutufaris down low, did a great job. Our goalie, Mac Hand, had some key saves (nine total).”

The Cardinal O’Hara offense was led by junior captain Mia Scarduzio (six goals, three assists, seven draw controls) and Miller (five goals, two assists).

With the victory, Cardinal O’Hara (19-5) will face District 1 runnerup Strath Haven in Tuesday’s semifinals. Interestingly, Duckenfield used to coach the Panthers – her daughter, Alex Duckenfield, was an All-American at Strath Haven in 2011.

The Lions started a little slow offensively, and trailed, 2-1, midway through the first half, and 3-2 with 7 ½ minutes to go before halftime, but Miller scored after a short run to tie the score at 3-3 with 7:06 left. O’Hara won the ensuing draw control, and freshman Honor Breen scored just 13 seconds later to put the Lions ahead for good.

Lion sophomore Maddie Sharkey tallied with 5:22 left in the half, O’Hara won the following draw control, and Miller scored her third goal of the game to make it 6-3.

With 1:54 to go before halftime, junior Mia Scarduzio scored her second goal of the game to give the Lions a 7-3 lead they took into halftime.

“We were struggling to find our shot early on, and then Maddie (Sharey) came in and put two goals in that gave this team confidence. And Honor Breen scored a big goal. When you get a freshman and a sophomore scoring goals, that’s a good day.”

In the second half, the Lions never led by less than three goals. When Miller scored her fifth goal of the game midway through the period, it gave Cardinal O’Hara a 12-6 lead with 14:27 left. Then the Lions regained their six-goal advantage when senior Rachel Familetti tallied to put her squad ahead 13-7 with only 9:07 to play.

But the Fighting Irish went on a quick 4-1 run in the next four minutes, getting goals from four different scorers to cut the Lions’ lead to 14-11 with 4:48 left.

After a series of numerous Cardinal O’Hara passes, Scarduzio tallied her fifth goal of the game to put the Lions ahead 15-11 with 2:28 left. Scarduzio, a Catholic University commit, scored her sixth goal with 1:24 left to close the scoring.

“At practice, we’re on each other’s backs, if we make a mistake, we were always there for each other,” Scarduzio said. “It’s all about practice and making each other better, being with each other. Our coaches are always making us the best we can be.”

That hard work has paid off.

“We were rough in the beginning,” Duckenfield said. “We played skilled teams and took some beatings, but this season we got better and continued to come together. We are very young, starting sophomores and juniors, and it’s been fun to see them raise the level of their play.”

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