Watching her team dash to a District 1 title and the PIAA final last year was bittersweet for Radnor’s Julianne Puckette.
Unable to play because of a knee injury, the second of her high school career, the junior attacker watched and waited, helping her teammates where she could.
As a senior, the Lehigh signee has made up for lost time.
Puckette continued a torrid postseason with a hat trick Thursday as No. 3 seed Radnor handled No. 5 Bishop Shanahan, 12-6, to win the District 1 Class 2A title at West Chester Henderson.
Radnor (14-7) will face the District 3 third-place finisher, York Catholic or Hershey, on Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA tourney at a site and time to be determined. Shanahan (13-8) will face District 2 champion Wyoming Seminary.
It’s the second straight year that Radnor has claimed a district title; last year it won the final one-classification crown. But Puckette is making up for lost time in these playoffs.
“To just come back and be able to be a leader on this team, it’s been really special for me,” she said. “I love this team and I have so many best friends on this team, and I just want to support them 24/7.
“I think this year, being in a new (class) and everything, we wanted to come out as hard as we can and I think we did a really, really good job of that.”
Puckette’s production wasn’t as rampant as in the last two games, where she blitzed Pope John Paul II in the quarterfinals and Gwynedd Mercy in the semis for six goals and one assist each. Still, she put her stamp on the game, supplying two of the goals on an 8-0 spurt that stunned Shanahan beyond the point of recovery.
Puckette added her third early in the second half, pairing with Nicole Massimino’s season-high fourth goal to restore an 11-4 lead with 13 minutes to play. It was an edge that was never challenged.
“She’s been a huge asset to our team all year,” Massimino said of Puckette. “She’s really helped get the ball to the goal when we’ve needed it. She’s really strong, so when she’s going to goal, we’re pretty confident she’s able to rip a shot past the goalie.”
Puckette added a team-best five draw controls.
Ellie Mueller and Hope Smith each contributed two goals to the eight-goal barrage in the first half for Radnor. Cate Cox provided a goal and two assists.
The Radnor defense kept Bishop Shanahan off the board until Kenzie Staska’s breakthrough at 5:19 of the first, but the Eagles scored the final three markers of the half to lightly threaten. Kaela Smith scored on either side of halftime, and Staska added a game-high nine draw controls, but too often Shanahan coughed up possession.
Even when they broke through Radnor’s high pressure, they struggled to solve goalie Alexa Solomon, who turned aside seven shots.
All that contributed to a look on Puckette’s face Thursday that conveyed more joy than last year’s more dramatic and rival-filled jaunt to the title.
“It’s totally different,” she said. “I felt a part of the team, just being there for their mental support. But now that I’m actually out there, I feel a part of the team and I feel like everyone’s very welcoming and knowing my strengths and weaknesses. They’re always there for me.”