By Harry Chaykun
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/7/22
Conestoga High’s senior class participated in graduation ceremonies Tuesday night.
Earlier in the day, the girls’ lacrosse team’s sophomore class made the biggest contributions in the closing minutes of the Pioneers’ 8-7 PIAA Class 3A semifinal victory over Garnet Valley at Springfield-Delco.
Soph Ellie Wisch tallied her third goal with 2:21 to play to create the fifth tie (7-7) of the game. Kiki Liebezeit, another 10th grader, had earned possession on the draw control, setting up the Wisch score.
The next draw control went to Pioneers sophomore Chloe Brown. Finally, after ’Stoga worked time off the clock awaiting its best chance at a last shot, Brown went to goal and delivered with the clock reading :03.3. The victory was the 17th in a row for Conestoga (23-1), giving the Pioneers their first chance at a state title since an 18-7 rout of Radnor in 2016.
The Pioneers will face Manheim Township – a 17-7 winner over Wilson – in the championship Saturday at West Chester East at a time to be determined.
“It’s all just so amazing,” Brown said. “I was on varsity last season, but not as a starter. We made it to the semifinals then, but we lost on this field to Radnor.
“We’re all working together to be successful. That’s why getting to the championship is so special for our seniors, who were going back for graduation (Tuesday) night. We knew how special this would be for them.”
Conestoga claimed an 11-9 decision over Garnet Valley when the teams met in a Central League match in the first half of the season.
“Both teams are a lot different now,” Brown said. “We know we can never give up because their team won’t give up. We always have to believe in ourselves. At the end, we were looking for whatever we could get. I had the shot, and it was great that it went in.”
There were questions about whether Conestoga had turned the ball over on a restart before the winning shot as well as whether a whistle was sounded as Brown delivered the shot.
The officials conferred and awarded the goal, setting off an uproar among the GV fans.
“I must have misunderstood one of their signals,” Jaguars head coach Jenny Dooley, who claimed she was unsuccessful in getting explanations on some earlier calls, said. “I know Conestoga played a good game and has a good defense.
“I’m so proud of the team I coached. This is one of the best games any team I’ve had has shown (in terms of) the fight they gave and how they came back when they were down.”
Garnet Valley had a two-goal lead 13 minutes before halftime, with Sophie Kingsborough contributing a pair of scores. Goals by sophomore Keating Hopkins and Wisch, assisted by Kate Galica (four caused turnovers), one minute apart set the score at 5-5 at the break.
Melissa Hewitt (Conestoga) and Kaitlyn Stankavage (Garnet Valley) accounted for all the scoring in the first 22 minutes of the second half. Galica caused some GV turnovers and Jenny Green, Stankavage, Jess Bellis, Mia Zebley and Jamie Dwyer led the defense for GV.
With three minutes left, Ava Kane drilled in an 8-meter shot to put the Jaguars ahead, 7-6.
“Their goalie is left-handed so I had to make the adjustment,” Kane said. “I’m used to shooting in practice against our goalie, and she’s right-handed.”
Less than 40 seconds later, it was Wisch who came through with another tying goal for the Pioneers.
“You think about being at the same place where everything ended last year,” she said. “You have the chance to come through for your seniors, so you have to try to deliver.”
PIAA 3A semis
Conestoga 8, Garnet Valley 7
Garnet Valley 5 2 – 7
Conestoga 5 3 – 8
Sophie Kingsborough 2G
Mia Raucci 1G
Mia Zebley 1G
Lex Garrity 1G
Ava Kane 1G
Kaitlyn Stankavage 1G
Makenzie Butler 3 saves
Ellie Wisch 3G
Melissa Hewitt 2G
Chloe Brown 1G 1A
Kiki Liebezeit 1G
Keating Hopkins 1G
Kate Galica 1A
Piper Kienzle 1A
Alana Lepore 6 saves