Owen J. Roberts explodes in second half, wins first PIAA girls lacrosse championship over Penncrest

UNIVERSITY PARK >> In recent years, the Owen J. Roberts girls lacrosse team was capable of getting caught up in the moment, the venom of a rattlesnake that’s bitten the Wildcats time and time again.

But on the grandest stage, Owen J. Roberts took its hard-learned lessons of the past to heart and concocted the perfect antidote.

After enduring a flurry from Penncrest late in the first half, the Wildcats showed their fangs, surging with 10 second-half goals for a 17-9 win in the PIAA Class 3A girls lacrosse final at Penn State University’s Panzer Stadium on Saturday.

A rematch of the District 1 final, it was the first state final appearance for both schools.

Owen J. Roberts (27-1) became the first Pioneer Athletic Conference team — both boys and girls — to win a PIAA lacrosse title and added the final check on its goals for a three-championship season, taking the Pioneer Athletic Conference, District 1 and PIAA titles.

“Honestly, it brought tears to my eyes,” senior midfielder Alexa Vogelman said. “I love these girls and I love this senior class. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Having the opportunity to play with them all four years and even in club has been just the greatest thing.

“All my life, they’ve taught me so much. I’m so grateful for them. To conclude it, come out on top and bring it back to our school is the greatest feeling ever.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Alexa Vogelman (11) races past Penncrest’s Celeste Cahill during the PIAA Class 3A championship game on June 17 at Penn State’s Panzer Stadium. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Vogelman, a Syracuse commit, amassed a game-high six goals, four in the first half as the Wildcats jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start. University of Florida signee Gabbi Koury tacked on four goals with six assists.

The win capped the special careers of Koury and Vogelman, both three-time All-Americans who entered the game with 111 goals apiece on the season, and OJR’s nine-member senior class that also featured Colby Wasson (three goals), Blakely Doyle (goal), Ava Clemson (two goals), Kalli Mullen and defenders Rachel Sbei, Avery Wentzel and Cailin Harrington.

Owen J. Roberts players celebrate with the PIAA championship trophy after winning the 3A final over Penncrest on June 17 at Penn State’s Panzer Stadium. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

The Lions (21-5) brought things back down to Earth after OJR jumped out to a 5-0 lead, rallying with six goals within the final seven minutes of the first half. They cut their deficit, 7-6 entering the break. Penn pledge Kate Stanton — a junior midfielder with over 200 career goals — put Penncrest on the board on a free position, cutting it 5-1 at the 6:47 mark.

Kaitlyn Roth and Adisyn Bernhardt (two goals) supplied tallies to climb all but out of the hole, a would-be hat trick for Stanton (four goals) waved off at the buzzer to keep Owen J. Roberts above water by one score.

“I think mentally, it honestly helped. It made us madder,” Stanton said on her goal being waved off. “We felt like that should’ve counted or it should’ve been shooting space, should’ve been a foul on me at least before I took the shot because I would’ve taken it sooner if the girl wasn’t in front of me. It is what it is. It happens and we needed to use it to fuel ourselves.”

Penncrest’s Kate Stanton is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against Owen J. Roberts during the PIAA Class 3A championship game on June 17 at Penn State’s Panzer Stadium. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Koury heated up coming out of halftime, feeding Xavier-bound All-American Wasson a goal on the first possession before scoring on a free position right after. Koury poured on another goal with 17:58 remaining, willing the Wildcats on with a 10-6 advantage.

Gone were the cycle of postseason exits, three district and state quarterfinal losses over the last three seasons. Out of sight and out of mind was an upset to Methacton in last year’s PAC championship.

Fully in the moment, a team that preaches emotional intelligence — faced with the ultimate test in the biggest game of their careers — found a way to ace it and flip the script.

“We had a really good talk at halftime where everybody got their heads straight. We were all kind of caught up in the moment,” Koury said. “We all took a deep breath, relaxed and reminded each other that it’s just a lacrosse game. We’ve been doing this our whole lives, all season and we’ve had a successful season.”

The Lions held a slight 15-13 advantage in draw controls. Stanton registered a game-high 10 with Harding and Roth coming up with three and two respectively. Vogelman won seven draws, Koury four and a pair between Butler commit Ava Clemson and Wasson.

In the last meeting between the two, Penncrest played 19 minutes man-down, the Wildcats capitalizing on those situations to pull out a 14-7 win in the District 1 final.

This time around, Penncrest kept the yellow cards to more of a minimum, being dealt just two. The Lions kept their pieces where they needed to be in order to put themselves in a position to win before Owen J. Roberts surged after halftime.

“I think they are some of the top players in the whole country, Alexa and Gabbi. So I feel like us being able to keep it within one at half was morally a victory for us,” Stanton said. “We’re still a young team so we’re still getting better. Next year, I’ll be a senior and a bunch of our team will be juniors, so we’ll be smarter. You need to know how this feels to be able to win the next one.”

Penncrest’s Cara Childs (29) tries to get away from Owen J. Roberts defenders Alexa Vogelman and Ashly White during the PIAA Class 3A championship game on June 17 at Penn State’s Panzer Stadium. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Penncrest capped its year 21-5, putting its flag in the sand in a stacked Central League by earning berths in the District 1 and PIAA finals.

Sara Knasiak came up with seven saves in net for Penncrest and Korrigan Sweeney came up with three saves for Owen J. Roberts.

“We had to play our game. We kind of let them dictate the way the game was going to be played,” Vogelman said. “We were playing fast-paced and then we tried to slow it down. It wasn’t really working for us. We had to focus that second half on doing what we do best.”

Owen J. Roberts’ Laina Grimm (3) works the ball on attack against Penncrest during the PIAA Class 3A championship game on June 17 at Penn State’s Panzer Stadium. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

A loaded senior class of nine players — eight moving on to NCAA Division I play — came out on top, exorcizing the demons of seasons past to bring a state title back to Bucktown.

“It’s super bittersweet. It’s super sad I’m not going to be able to play with these girls ever again, but also, this is the best way to go out,” Koury said. “You go out a winner. I couldn’t ask for a better ending.”

Owen J. Roberts 17, Penncrest 9


First-half scoring: OJR—Wasson (Koury), 23:50. OJR—Koury (FPS), 19:03. OJR—Vogelman, 18:56. OJR—Doyle, 13:38. OJR—Vogelman (FPS),1 2:12. PC—Stanton (PFS), 6:47. PC—Roth (FPS), 6:13. OJR—Vogelman (Koury), 3:59. PC—Bernhardt (Stanton), 2:43. OJR—Vogelman (Wasson), 1:05. PC—Stanton (Harding), :56. PC—Harding, :28. PC—Roth, :08.
Second-half scoring: OJR—Wasson (Koury), 23:21. OJR—Koury (FPS), 21:11. OJR—Koury, 17:58. PC—Bernhardt, 15:33. OJR—Vogelman (Koury), 14:57. OJR—Milano (Koury), 12:46. OJR—Clemson (Milano), 10:55. OJR—Koury (FPS), 6:03. OJR—Clemson (FPS), 5:30. OJR—Vogelman (Koury), 3:13. OJR—Wasson (Vogelman) 1:33. PC—Stanton (Harding), 1:33. PC—Stanton, :36.
Yellow cards: Harding 2, Kamin (PC); Draw controls: Owen J. Roberts 13 (Vogelman 7, Koury 4, Clemson, Wasson), Penncrest 15 (Stanton 10, Harding 3, Roth 2); Goalies: Sweeney (OJR) 3 saves, Knasiak (PC) 7 saves.

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