This is part of a continuing series counting down the top Philly lacrosse stories of 2009
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/19/10
After starting the year with two losses in their first three games – including a 10-goal loss to Radnor – few believed Springfield-Delco Cougars would continue their streak of winning District 1 girls’ championships.
But the Cougars turned around their fortunes with 19 straight wins and entered the District 1 title game against Radnor on a roll. Springfield-Delco led the game, 9-8, at halftime, and then outscored the Red Raiders, 5-1, in the second half to claim a stunning 14-9 triumph.
The victory snapped Radnor’s 44-game win streak – which included back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and Central League championships as well as a 2008 District 1 Class AAA title. The win also gave Springfield its fourth consecutive District 1 crown and sixth in seven years.
Springfield-Delco claimed the District 1 Class AAA crowns in 2003-04 and from 2006-08. Last year the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association sanctioned the sport of lacrosse for the first time and held a state tournament in one class; meaning all teams went into one district tourney.
The Cougars (21-2), who held the Raiders to just one goal in the second half, earned their fourth straight district crown. They won the last three Class AA titles; there is one class this year now that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) is holding its first state tournament.
The Cougars did not fare as well in the state tourney, bowing to Unionville in the quarterfinals while Radnor went on to win the PIAA crown.
But in the district finals, Springfield’s ability to defend and win the draw controls proved to be the difference.
“We put forth everything we had today and hustled to every groundball,” said Springfield-Delco senior Madison Poplawski, who finished with four goals. “It shows that we can play at the top level no matter what the divisions are at now.”
The Cougars came out of the gates on fire thanks in part to 7 of 10 face-off victories and an extra bounce in their step. Just 10 minutes into the game, Springfield had already built a 7-2 lead and had out-shot Radnor by a 10-4 margin. Senior midfielder Samantha Tulskie was a force and notched the first three goals for the Cougars while Poplawski added two more.
And according to midfielder Valerie Paolucci, the early goal-scoring success and draw control wins played an integral role in Springfield finding its groove.
“We worked hard in practice on winning the draw controls,” said Paolucci, a junior, who had three goals. “Getting those draws helped us be successful. Often times, we would take it right down and score. And the defense stepped up when we didn’t get scores. It was a total team effort.”
But a talented team like Radnor doesn’t go away quietly. As expected, the Raiders made a late first-half surge and ended up tying the game at 8-8 with 1:30 to go. Courtney Campbell and Sam Ellis led the charge by combining for five goals during the run, many on free position opportunities and wrap-around chances.
It appeared that the teams would head into intermission with the game knotted at 8-8, but Tulskie picked up a late groundball and sprinted coast to coast before depositing a score with just 37 ticks left on clock. The late score proved to instill confidence into Springfield for the final half of play.
Both squads traded scores to open up the second half before Springfield took total control. Poplawski made it 11-9 Cougars with a free position score at 18:44 before storming right back down field after winning the next draw control and setting up a score by attacker Lindsey Mace.
With a three-goal advantage, the Cougars kept the pressure on the Radnor defense with patient, methodical possessions, but also prevented their opponents from getting good looks on net due to double-teams and aggressive stick checks.
“The key was that whenever there was a groundball out in front of our net, we came up with it,” Springfield head coach Keith Broome said. “For our defense to give up just one goal in the second half is absolutely amazing.”
Springfield-Delco added two more scores by Poplawski and Paolucci before the 10-minute mark to claim a 14-9 lead. All of a sudden, the Raiders had found themselves in unfamiliar territory and never recovered.
“They came out hard — you have to give them a lot of credit,” Radnor coach Phyllis Kilgour said. “They made a lot of things happen. Towards the end, I think we panicked a little bit. We have been down before and we aren’t afraid to be down. We just didn’t get the ball in the second half and you can’t do too much without the ball.”
Tulskie, Poplawski and Paolucci combined for 11 of their team’s 14 total goals. Meanwhile, Princeton-bound attacker Sam Ellis was held to just two goals for Radnor. The senior was fresh off of a nine-goal performance against Strath Haven in the semifinals, but frequently saw double teams and pressure by Michelle Conway and her defensive teammates.
“This is huge because no one expected us to win,” Broome said. “Radnor had 44 straight wins coming in. Nobody expected us to win, but the kids certainly did.”
Springfield-Delco 14, Radnor 9
Springfield-Delco 9-5 – 14
Radnor 8-1 – 9
Springfield-Delco goals: Madison Poplawski 4, Samantha Tulskie 4, Valerie Paolucci 3, Shannon Burns, Lindsey Mace, Lindsey Kennedy.
Radnor goals: Courtney Campbell 4, Sam Ellis 2, Allie Martin 2, Kelyn Freedman.
Goalie saves: Janal Folkomer (S) 7; Annie Woehling (R) 11.