Garnet Valley Claims Girls' Title in Pennsylvania

By Chris Goldberg,

HERSHEY Garnet Valley, a team few would have expected to win the state girls' lacrosse championship back in March, completed a stunning run to gold at HersheyPark Stadium.

The Jaguars, with only one senior starter, avenged a lopsided loss to Downingtown East in the District 1 finals and defeated the Cougars, 17-14, in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) championship game.

Ally Heavens scored five goals, Halley Barnes had four goals and four assists and AnnaElise Morello added three goals and seven assists while goalie Kate Stroup (11 saves) led the defense as Garnet Valley led from start to finish.

"I don't think we had any idea (this could happen)," said Barnes, one of a brilliant junior class. "Our team goal originally was to make it to the third game in the playoffs (District 1 quarterfinals).

"We had no idea a state championship was within our reach. But we played as a unit and I don't think anybody can stop us when we play like that."

The Jaguars (24-3) had lost to the Cougars, 22-12, 16 days ago. But this time, Garnet Valley raced to a 5-1 lead, led 9-6 at halftime and never allowed the Cougars (25-2) to get closer than two goals.

Ashley Poli led Downingtown East with four goals while Emily Solenberger (three assists) and McKenzie Rafferty each had three.

"We decided never to be satisfied in this game," Barnes said. "Last time (against Downingtown East) we came out (leading) 2-0 and then we lost it. We watched 'Miracle' on the way up and it was kind of like the same story. It was an inspiration."

As the United States did on the ice back in 1980, Garnet Valley showed any doubters that it was for real.

"It's just absolutely amazing," said Stroup. "Earlier in the season they 10-runned us. We just have so much motivation and so much spirit. We just came back here and played our game.

"Definitely, I didn't think we would get this far. It's absolutely ridiculous how far you can go with a group of people."

After Garnet Valley went ahead 7-3 with 12:12 left in the first half, Downingtown East coach Caitlin Barbakoff pulled senior goalie Allie Murray a member of the United States U19 team and an All-American headed to Notre Dame and inserted Marya Fratoni.

Fratoni, a Division I recruit for Connecticut, made a few key stops and the Cougars appeared to have a spark. They closed within 8-6 on goals by Poli, Rafferty and Solenberger

Garnet Valley coach Kate Henwood then called time out and 40 seconds later Heavens weaved into traffic ands scored to make it 9-6. Stroup then made a key stop on Nicole Barretta to give the Jags a 9-6 halftime lead.

"I thought Marya would give us a jump," said Barbakoff. "She played really well."

Fratoni would finish with eight saves. She was replaced by Murray late in the game.

Downingtown East pulled within 9-7 to open the second half on a goal by Rafferty, Heavens scored to make it 10-7 and after Stroup stopped a shot by Solenberger in tight, Garnet Valley's Haley Warden (two goals) made it 11-7 off another strong feed from Morello.

Poli later drew the Cougars within 13-11 with 10:08 to play on consecutive goals, but the Jags went on a 4-0 run after Morello hit Barnes for another goal.

"Our connections were there," said Barnes. "We had so many assisted goals. They have an amazing goalie, but no goalie can stop a ball coming at your from all different angles and all different people."

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