Radnor overcame challenges and adversity to finish perfect 23-0
By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/30/09
It was a magical year for the Radnor girls in 2008.
The Red Raiders topped off a perfect 23-0 season by rallying for a hard-fought 15-11 victory over Bayard Rustin in the District 1 Class AAA championship game at Marple Newtown. Radnor finished as the No. 7 team in the nation according to Lacrosse Magazine and No. 8 according to the LaxPower National Coaches/Computer Ratings.
Along the way, there were other memorable moments. Veteran Raiders coach Phyllis Kilgour eanred her 500th career victory in the first game of the season, a rout of West Chester East. The players also dedicated the win to the memory of long-time fan and supporter Brian Early, the father of senior leader Molly Early. Brian died last November in a plane crash.
While the Raiders cruised to victory on most games, they did face a major challenge in Springfield-Delco, the defending Central League champion. With both teams undefeated, they met for the title late in the season and the Raiders rallied for a 13-12 victory.
The final victory over Rustin also did not come easily. Radnor rallied from first-half deficits of 5-0 and 8-4 to claim its first district crown since 2003.
“I knew we were going to win,” said Early after the game. “Our motto is confident, not cocky. I knew we’d pull through because I believe in every one of our players.”
Gabby Miller, Kelly Barnes and Brooke Campbell led a balanced Radnor attack with three goals apiece. Early and Sam Ellis had two each while Kelyn Freedman and Allie Martin added one each.
It was Campbell who scored two goals at the end of the first half to draw her team within 8-6. Radnor then scored six of the first seven goals of the second half, winning nearly every draw control.
“She (Kilgour) said, ‘You guys are better, play your game,’” Early said of her coach’s halftime speech. “We started playing our game in transition. Then we settled down the attack and the draw controls were so crucial.”
During the half, the Raiders used their speed and ability to win draw controls to dominate possession.
“I never had a doubt that we were going to win,” Miller said. “We worked too hard to lose.”
Kilgour, who had made the bold statement that this team was her best ever earlier in the playoffs, was equally relieved and proud the Raiders managed to finish the season undefeated.
“It’s so rewarding to everybody,” she said. “I am so glad we did it. It would have been such a horrible shame if they had not been able to do it. I don’t think I could have lived with myself.”
Miller said the players dealt well with high expectations and a load of recognition.
“We’ve never let any of that publicity get to our heads and we’ve just played together,” Miller said. “That’s why we won, because we played as a team. No one had to say anything at halftime. We just had to work hard and get it done.”
The post-season honors came in bunches for the Raiders. Barnes and fellow midfielder Beth Ellis and sophomore Freedman were first-team All-Americans while Sam Ellis and Early were second-team choices. Barnes, Sam Ellis, Kelsey Martin, Beth MacKenzie, and Katie Geary earned Academic All-American.
Barnes, who also was selected to the Under Armour All-American team, shared the Phillylacrosse.com Player of the Year award with Beth Ellis. But what Barnes most proud was how her team overcame adversity as well as a disappointing 2007 season.
“We didn’t really click well last year for whatever reason and we lost unexpectedly (in the first round of districts),” said Barnes. “We kind of used that as an example and took that anger into the season.”
“We went out this year with a refuse-to-lose attitude. Our team chemistry grew every day and the friendships grew every day.”
Ellis said the team bonded together immediately when head coach Phyllis Kilgour and new assistant Brooke Fritz brought in a professional team morale builder to assist in the process.
“From the first day we stepped onto the turf for tryouts, we knew that we didn’t want to have what happened last year, happen again,” Ellis said. “Right from the start we came mentally prepared for the season.
“We had a man come and do activities with us about team building and team bonding. From the underclassmen on up, we felt so close to them and we knew every little thing about them. There was no separation on the team; it was complete unity.”
Ellis said the team met its challenges head on.
“There was a lot of hype going on at the beginning,” Ellis said. “We just focused on our team and not any individuals.
“There were a lot of things this year that, I guess, taught us lessons much bigger than lacrosse,” Barnes added, noting the team also had to deal with the season-ending injury to senior Kelly Connors. “We all grew a lot. (The loss of Brian Early) was a huge tragedy, not only to Molly, but the whole community. I think we grew from that experience and it drew our team together.”
Coming Monday: The No. 1 Story of the Year.