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PIAA girls’ championship preview: Downingtown East used mixture of experience and youth to reach state final

Friday, 10th June 2011

Categories Girl's/Women's, High School  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 6/10/11

The Downingtown East girls’ lacrosse team has used a mix of top seniors and talented newcomers to reach the finals of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) tournament.

The Cougars (25-1), the Ches-Mont League and District 1 champions, meet Garnet Valley (23-3) in the title game Saturday at 1 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium. Downingtown East thumped the Jaguars, 22-12, in the District 1 title game two weeks ago.

Much was expected of Downingtown East after the Cougars returned several key seniors from a squad that placed fifth in the District 1 tournament last year and advanced to the second round of states.

Returning were the following seniors: U19 goalie Allie Murray (signed with Notre Dame), All-American Kelly Devlin (North Carolina), Emily Solenberger (Lehigh), Ashley Poli (West Chester) and goalie Marya Fratoni (Connecticut). Indeed, the Cougars are ranked No. 13 in the nation by ESPN RISE.

But with only one other senior (defender Melissa Hummel) on the roster, Downingtown East has had to depend heavily on underclassmen.

“I knew we had six seniors with a lot of talent,” said Cougars coach Caitlin Barbakoff, whose team advanced to the state final by edging Great Valley, 9-8, on Tuesday. “They had been starting since they were sophomore, but we still had not put all the pieces together.

“We got four of our goals Tuesday by first-year varsity players and two goals were scored by freshmen (Linnea Faccenda and Nicole Barretta). I knew we had some strong players coming back this year with Emily and Kelly at midfield and Ashley at attack as well as the strong goalies, but we’ve been able to jell with a mix of experience and youth and that’s been the key.”

Barbakoff said this year’s team has been successful due to its commitment.

“This is a huge and exciting opportunity,” she said. “Only one team in the country has won more games than us – St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes of Virginia has won 31 games.

“I am so happy with our girls. They have given their heart and soul to the season. I think what they have accomplished is even bigger than a state championship. We have fun at practice and that’s what sports is all about.

“That’s what I am so excited about. If we lose, obviously I’ll be disappointed. But this season has been better than I could have hoped for.”

ASlthough Barbakoff realizes Garnet Valley has revenge on its mind, she is confident the Cougars will not be overconfident.

“We have never been here before either so we have nothing to feel overconfident about,” she said. “Garnet Valley will have the real underdog mentality and that’s powerful.

“The way she (Kate Henwood) coaches them, they have a fierce, hustling style. We have to handle that and match it. They’ve shown to have a potent offense. Hopefully, we’ll play our best game.”



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