By Harry Chaykun
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/11/22
Conestoga, which advanced to the final with a last-second victory over Garnet Valley Tuesday, left no doubt Saturday morning in the PIAA girls’ 3A championship at West Chester East.
The Pioneers raced to a quick 5-0 lead and claimed a 15-7 decision over Manheim Township for its first state title since 2016.
Sophomores Ellie Wisch and Kiki Liebezeit each had four goals and an assist and Kate Galico scored four goals as the Pioneers (24-1) completed a rare triple crown – Central League, District 1 and state championships. Conestoga’s only loss was to undefeated Archbishop Carroll.
Manheim Township (24-3), the District 3 champion, was making its fourth straight appearance in the state final – the Blue Streaks previously fell to Unionville (11-6 in 2018), Harriton (12-6 in 2019) and Radnor (11-5 in 2021).
Conestoga bolted to a quick 5-0 lead and held a 10-3 pad at halftime when Wisch scored in the final second off a fine free position feed by Liebezeit.
“The entire year, I’ve been saying that the only team that can beat us is ourselves,” Conestoga head coach Amy Orcutt said.
“When we play our game, we are difficult to stop. And we worked the ball well on attack today, and we really got a team effort from our defense. I can’t tell you how proud I am of everyone on this team.”
Township had a two-goal run in the first six minutes of the second half before Liebezeit scored twice in 59 seconds for Conestoga.
“We always tell ourselves that if we play our best we can beat any team,” Liebezeit said. “Each time we go out there, we want to play hard and play our best because we know the other teams are going to play hard against us.
“Ever since I started playing I’ve always had this dream that one day I would help win a state championship. Looks like that came true today.”
Conestoga goalie Alana Lepore turned away five of the eight shots she faced in the opening half – including two from in-close range – and finished with seven saves.
“Our defense played so well together,” Lepore said. “The communication out there was outstanding. From when we started our season by scrimmaging against that team until we finished by beating them today, it’s just been great, working hard at practice and in every game. Being a senior, you talk about always wanting to remember your last game. I think I will be able to do that.”
Kat Bielinski Sophie Borelli, Brooke Braslow, Galica, Liebezeit and Emma Nikolic led the defense in front of Lepore.
“The coaches did what they could to prepare us for the game,” Bielinski said. “But we know if we play our own defense and communicate with each other we should be able to win.”
Galica didn’t score a goal in the semifinal win over Garnet Valley, but she did contribute four caused turnovers in that game.
“I wasn’t all that happy with my showing in that other game,” the junior said. “I knew how big this game was going to be, and I was so excited to see the way that all of the sophomores came through today. I’m glad the way things turned out today, and I hope everyone who is coming back next year wants to be doing this again.”
Manheim Township coach Mark Pinkerton has dealt with the disappointment of being in second place before, but said getting to the state finals again was a major accomplishment.
“I really didn’t think this was our year to get here,” he said, noting his team’s youth. “‘Stoga is just better than we are. And we played the worst defense we played all year – early on it snowballed.
“When you’re playing catchup to ‘Stoga you’re in trouble. They move the ball really well. But I am very proud of them, to be here again is great.”
Conestoga 15, Manheim Township 7
Manheim Twp 3-4-7
Kate Galica 4g
Ellie Wisch 4g, 1a
Kiki Liebezeit 4g, 1a
Piper Kienzle 4a
Melissa Hewitt 1g, 4a
Chloe Brown 1g, 1a
Keating Hopkins 1g
Alan Lepore 7 saves
Bronwyn Hilbert 2g, 4a
Alyssa Dotter 2g
CC Walker 1g
Brenna Campagna 2g
Sydney Witwer 1g
Maddie Eckert 3 saves