This wasn't supposed to happen.
The Radnor girls' lacrosse team had rolled over opponents during the playoffs, winning by an average of 13 goals a game. They had chalked up 22 straight victories, so winning the PIAA District 1 Class AAA title was going to be easy, right?
But to have Bayard Rustin run through them, by them, and, in some instances, over them was something new. The Red Raiders - undefeated and nationally ranked - weren't expecting to get bum-rushed. They were never punched in the face before.
Radnor found it could punch back. The Red Raiders overcame an early deficit to beat Rustin, 15-11, and win the District 1 championship for the first time since 2003 last night at Marple Newtown High School.
The victory ended a remarkable season for the Red Raiders, who finished 23-0; Rustin had a very good season, ending 17-3.
But what was expected to be a stomping turned out to be a fistfight, with Radnor down and bleeding 5-0 within the first 5 minutes. Rustin's Alison Tatios, bound for Penn, did most of the damage, scoring three first-half goals and finishing with four.
Gradually, Radnor chipped away, until senior Gabby Miller ripped through the Rustin defense to give Radnor its first lead of the game, 10-9, with 19 minutes, 21 seconds left in the second half.
That was all the Red Raiders needed. They never trailed again, scoring five of the next six goals to take control of the game and win the "unofficial" state title. (The PIAA will not sponsor statewide girls' lacrosse until next season.)
Sophomores Kelyn Freedman and Courtney Campbell played key roles. Freedman provided a strong defense in the middle of the field and won a number of faceoffs, while Campbell scored three goals and kept Radnor in the game, when it looked as if Rustin would run away.
"I don't think we were down by more than one goal this year in any game, but always believed we could come back and win," Miller said. "There was no other way we were going to go out, with this team and the season we had, other than by winning."
In the first game, Springfield (Delco) won its third straight District 1 Class AA championship with a 13-11 victory over Great Valley. Springfield won the district championship for the fifth time in 6 years.
For one half, it looked as if Great Valley would change that course. But the Cougars have always been a steady team, and they never became frazzled.
For most of the opening half, the Patriots (19-4) stayed with powerful Springfield (19-3), which took control of the game on four unanswered goals, two from Madison Poplawski and one each from Rebecca Hartrum and Shannon Burns. The run gave the Cougars a 10-6 lead early in the second half.
Though Springfield played a tough game against Radnor earlier this season, it was a team that Cougars coach Keith Broome had to piece together, unsure who his 12 starters would be at the start of the season.
But Broome had a senior core, led by goaltender Meghan Kearney, who made some key saves at crucial moments last night, and a strong attack group with Aly Adams, Meredith Withelder, Hartrum and Samantha Tajirian.
"We had real high expectations for ourselves this year," said Tajirian, who scored three goals last night. "For the seniors, this was our last game together and we wanted to play like it. It was emotional at the end, because it is the last time I play with this team. We're an emotional bunch." *