By Adam C. Warner,
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/7/09
Very few teams can put back-to-back undefeated regular seasons on their resume.
Well now, Sam Ellis and the Radnor girls’ lacrosse team can claim that feat thanks to today’s performance, although it didn’t come easy by any means.
Despite owning a seven-goal lead early in the second half, Ellis and company held off a ferocious comeback by their opponents before registering a 19-18 victory over visiting Strath Haven in a key Central League battle.
With the victory, the Red Raiders (17-0 overall, 11-0 league) – ranked first in the PA Media Rankings – clinched the league title outright and also made it two straight unbeaten regular seasons. In 2008, Radnor also ran the table en route to a district championship and 23-0 overall record.
Next, the Raiders will be looking towards the District 1 tournament (they were awarded the top seed later in the night) before competing in the first-ever Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) state championship. But before that, Ellis and her teammates will be sure to savor Thursday’s victory.
“It feels amazing not only to have done it once, but to have gone undefeated twice is just crazy,” said Ellis, a Princeton recruit, who finished with four goals and an assist for the Raiders. “It’s nice because I have so much faith in this team and I know how far we can go. It’s great to see what we can accomplish.”
Early on, the Raiders looked poised to capture the league championship with relative ease. With excellent ball movement and solid transition play, Radnor ran out to an 8-4 advantage at the midway point of the first half. In addition to Ellis, Allie Martin, Kelyn Freedman and Courtney Campbell were nearly unstoppable on the offensive end thanks to their aggressive drives on goal and precision passing.
The Raiders grabbed a 12-6 lead with five minutes, 52 seconds left in the first before fourth-ranked Strath Haven (14-3, 9-2) tallied four of the last six goals of the half to get the score to 14-9.
“Things were clicking,” said Ellis, who had two first-half tallies. “Our transition game was really on. We saw ball, we saw player, we made great passes and everything was just working.”
While the Raiders scored the first two goals of the second half, Strath Haven quickly got back into the contest thanks to success on draw controls and its efficient offense.
With midfielder Emily Garrity playing the role of catalyst, the Panthers reeled off three straight scores in 38 seconds before the 21-minute mark off of draw control wins and quick transition play up field. After a Radnor score at 20:27 that made the score 17-12, the Panthers went back to work and notched the next four goals to creep within one with 17:50 to play.
“We dug ourselves in a hole but found a way to crawl back out,” Strath Haven head coach Margie Garrity said. “We switched out a few defenders and made some adjustments at midfield, which really seemed to help a lot in the second half.”
After both squads traded scores, the Panthers finally tallied the equalizer with 2:50 remaining when Annalise Penikis found Kelly Ruffini in front on a bang-bang play.
But Radnor would have the last say. Following a pair of point-blank saves by goalie Annie Woehling, Freedman scored on the transition break on a well-timed feed by Martin with 1:50 to go. Then, after winning the decisive last draw control, the Raiders prevented the Panthers from gaining possession the rest of the way and ran out the clock.
“We had a big target on our back all year long and the pressure had been mounting and mounting,” Radnor head coach Phyllis Kilgour said. “I am just glad the girls could come through because I know that they really wanted it. We are a total team. If you look at every game, you will see five, six or seven scorers. It’s just a great group to work with and I’m glad that they could pull it off today.”
Campbell finished with a team-high five goals for Radnor while Ellis, Martin and Freedman added four goals apiece. Meanwhile, Penikis notched six scores for the Panthers, Ana White had five and Garrity ended up with three goals and eights assists for a game-high 11 points.
And for the Raiders, by defeating a skilled team like Strath Haven to take the title, it was the perfect finish to an unforgettable regular season.
“It’s amazing, especially in a really tough Central League,” said Freedman, who finished with seven points. “Now there are 10 games left, including the championship. There’s still a solid month left of lacrosse and I’m looking forward to every minute of it.”
Radnor 19, Strath Haven 18
Strath Haven 9 9 – 18
Radnor 14 5 – 19
Strath Haven goals: Annalise Penikis 6, Ana White 5, Emily Garrity 3, Julie Hayward 2, Kelly Ruffini 2.
Radnor goals: Courtney Campbell 5, Sam Ellis 4, Allie Martin 4, Kelyn Freedman 4, Ali Kelly, Alyssa Dunlap.
Goalie saves: Lela Meunier (SH) 5, Olivia Kerrigan (SH) 6; Katie Geary (R) 2, Annie Woehling (R) 6.