Last spring, they were all working on their summer plans, not sweating in the heat doing after-practice wind sprints, endless stick drills and sitting around talking strategy. But that’s what the new PIAA state tournament in girls lacrosse has brought this spring to some of Pennsylvania’s best teams—and no one would change a thing.
Especially none of the teams from powerful District 1 in Southeastern Pennsylvania, which is proving its reputation as the best area in the state. Of the eight remaining in the PIAA state quarterfinal round, four are from District 1 (Radnor, Springfield, Unionville and Strath Haven)—and three of those four (Radnor, Springfield and Strath Haven) are from the Central League.
With two powerhouses, Radnor and Springfield, on opposite ends of the bracket, both teams could have a rematch of the District 1 finals in the state championship on June 6, at HersheyPark Stadium.
But those teams have quite a climb this weekend in the state quarterfinals. Radnor began the season the overwhelming favorite to win the first outright state title, until Springfield surprised the Red Raiders, 14-9, in the District 1 championship on May 21, snapping Radnor’s 44-game winning streak. Radnor will face Philadelphia Catholic League champion Archbishop Carroll and Springfield, which carries a 22-game winning streak, will meet Unionville.
Both games will take place Saturday at West Chester East High School in a doubleheader, featuring Radnor-Carroll at 6 p.m., followed by Springfield-Unionville at 8 p.m.
To reach this point, Springfield (23-2) first had to survive its biggest scare of the season, overcoming 6-0 and 7-1 deficits to beat Boyertown, 14-13, in overtime Tuesday night in a first-round game, while Radnor (22-1) easily devoured North Penn, 22-14.
“To be honest, we’re a young team starting a lot of young players, four on defense, and two are freshmen,” Springfield coach Keith Broome said. “We’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the season and we’re controlling draws. That’s been the key.”
That, and the stellar play of seniors Maddie Poplawski, headed to Penn for lacrosse, and Sammy Tulskie, who’s headed to La Salle to play volleyball. Both played large roles in Springfield beating Radnor, then combined for nine goals in the Cougars’ victory over Boyertown.
No team may be hotter in the state right now than Springfield.
“I have no problem saying the Central League is the best league in the state and it’s a brutal league to play in, but it prepares you for things like the state tournament and what you can face,” Broome said. “I’ve been here 14 years and I don’t think any team I had ever came back from a six-goal deficit, because I don’t think we ever trailed by six goals in a game.
“Hey, give Boyertown credit, and give my kids credit for battling back the way they did.”
Then there is Carroll (15-5), which has a 120-game winning streak against Catholic League opponents and nine-straight league titles. Patriots’ coach Lorraine Beers once saw her team sitting at 5-4 overall, back on April 27. Since then, the Pats have gone 10-1, with their lone loss coming against Radnor, 15-13, on May 1.
The schools are almost literally across the street from one another. But a month ago, Beers thought her team might have been light years away from their neighborhood rival. Not now.
“We’re there,” Beers said. “We play tough teams and a tough schedule to prepare us, but we lost three All-Americans to graduation, and we didn’t know what roles the girls would play in the beginning of the season. I think what did it for us was a lot of persistence, and we have a good group now that logs most of the minutes.”
The Pats also have a dangerous scoring combination in junior Aimee Genaro and sophomore Hannah Schmitt. The two combined to score 21 goals in the last two games.
“I like the way we’ve come through a struggling year,” Beers said. “We can hang with Radnor. We have nothing to lose. They just had a 44-game winning streak snapped, so they can be beat. We know that Radnor is a dangerous, scary team. But we have players like Aimee and Hannah who have come around, and it’s working. I’m happy.”
Joseph Santoliquito covers high sports for the Philadelphia Daily News and is a frequent contributor to MaxPreps.com.