Since District 1 began holding girls’ lacrosse tournaments in 1976, the winners were considered by most to be the unofficial or “mythical” state champions.
Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium, the first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) champion will be crowned when Radnor and Strath Haven meet at noon for the title.
Radnor coach Phyllis Kilgour believes the past district champions had every right to call themselves state champions.
“The District 1 championship has never been ‘mythical,”” said Kilgour, who has won 546 games and six district crowns in her illustrious career. “For me or anyone else who won it, that is all there was.
“And just like now, no one in the state can touch District1; that is why they tried to stack the odds against us. The only difference is a bigger medal and a bigger trophy.”
Kilgour’s Red Raiders have won a number of trophies in recent times. They claimed the District 1 Class AAA (large schools) crown last year and went undefeated in winning the Central League crown this year.
Radnor was seeded first in the district tourney, but fell to Springfield-Delco, 14-9, in the district finals. That loss also snapped the Raiders’ 44-game win streak,
Since then, though, Radnor has rebounded with PIAA wins over North Penn (22-14) and District 12 champion Archbishop Carroll (14-7). The Raiders reached the final by crushing District 3 champion Manheim Township, 23-2.
To the surprise of no one, District 1 has dominated play in this first PIAA tourney. Strath Haven, the third-place finisher from District 1, cruised past District 3 foes Penn Manor (19-4) and Hempfield (23-7). The Panthers (21-4) advanced to the final by holding off Unionville, 16-14. The Indians were the team that knked off Springfield-Delco in the quarterfinals.
Already this year, Radnor and Strath Haven have played twice – with Radnor prevailing, 19-18, in the regular season and then 20-11 in the district semifinals.
“We can’t wait, we’re so excited,” said Panthers’ All-American midfielder Emily Garrity after the Unionville win. “It’s the third time and we’re ready going to come out ready to play.”
Strath Haven coach Margie Garrity, Emily’s mother, agreed
“We played them to a one-goal game in the regular season so the girls know they can run with the best of them,” said Garrity. “We proved that by making it to the state championship.”
Kilgour does not believe the two wins over Strath Haven earlier this year mean much now.
“Strath Haven is always a tough opponent; there are probably some advantages and some disadvantages, but it is what it is – another game,” she said. “Our major focus is (going) back to basics; doing the little things right.
Here is a rundown on the matchups:.
Where and when: Radnor vs. Strath Haven, noon Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium (4 p.m. tape delayed, PCN TV).
What’s at Stake: The first PIAA girls’ championship. The first Disyrict 1 tourney was held in 1976 and was won by Harriton. Radnor won once, in 1986, under Kilgour when one tourney was held. Beginning in 1999, a Class AA tourney was added and Radnor won that title in 1999 and 2000. It won the AAA title in 2001 and 2003 and then again last year. Strath Haven played for a district title once, in 2007, when it fell to Springfield-Delco.
The Records: Radnor is 24-1, having won the Central League crown for the second straight year. The Red Raiders had a 44-game win streak until bowing to Springfield-Delco in the District 1 finals. Strath Haven, which is 21-4, placed third in the Central League and third in the District 1 tourney.
The Rankings: Radnor is ranked No. 1 in the PA Media Rankings and 25th in the LaxPower National Computer Rankings; Strath Haven is No. 2 in the Media Rankings and 40th in the LaxPower Rankings.
The Previous Meetings: Radnor edged the Panthers, 19-18, in the regular-season matchup on May 7. The Raiders won more easily in the District 1 semifinals, 20-11.
The Key Players: Radnor is young, but not inexperienced. The Raiders field only two seniors: attack Sam Ellis (Princeton) and defender Beasley Hays (Colgate). A third senior, goalie Katie Geary (William & Mary), is out with an injury. There are many key juniors in the lineup, some who played significant time last year on the undefeated team. That group is led by returning All-American midfielder Kelyn Freedman (committed to Georgetown, 76 goals this year), midfielders Allie Martin, Ellie Kraus and Alyssa Dunlap and attackers Courtney Campbell, Ali Kelly and Amalia Antonoplos. Joining Hays on defense are juniors Alyssa Dunlap, Andrea Feldman and Allison Heath. Sophomore goalie Annie Woehling has emerged in the absence of Geary.
Strath Haven’s offense is led by Garrity, a North Carolina signee who has amassed well over 600 career points and tallied her 400th career goal against Unionville. Garrity (110 goals this year) is a dangerous playmaker and adept at handling the ball. She has plenty of scorers to feed the ball to, led by senior attackers Annalise Penikis (Lehigh), Kelly Ruffini (Gettysburg) and Julie Hayward, junior midfielder Ana White and sophomore midfielder Jenna Frost. The defense is paced by junior Clare Sherry and sophomores Alex Duckenfield and Jenna Frost at midfield and senior Kim McClellan, junior Caroline Murphy and sophomore Summer O’Donnell at defense. The goalie, Lela Meunier, is a freshman, but has been a major contributor all year.
The Outcome: No one should be surprised to see these two teams in the finals. Each had expectations of making it this far before the year began. Finally, we’ll have an official state champion.