The Radnor and Springfield High girls' lacrosse teams can't seem to get away from each other, whether in the Central League, the PIAA District 1 final or the PIAA state lacrosse championships.
Today, at noon, the teams will clash for the third time this year in HersheyPark Stadium with the state title on the line.
Radnor (25-1), the defending state champion, faces a Springfield team (23-2) whose only two losses were to Radnor.
"We are playing well, I would say, right now," said Radnor senior midfielder Kelyn Freedman, a Georgetown signee. "We need to be able to slow our game down and just eliminate stupid mistakes like turnovers. They definitely forced some turnovers [when the teams met last], you can't help that. But we need to eliminate unforced errors."
The Red Raiders have scored 432 goals in 26 games, 16.6 a game. But the three times they were held to single figures came against Central League rivals Springfield and Strath Haven, which owns the only victory over Radnor (9-8 in overtime on May 6).
While teams have focused on trying to shut down Freedman, the Red Raiders have a solid supporting cast including Ali Kelly, Courtney Campbell and Allie Martin, as well as junior goaltender Annie Woehling.
Springfield counters with an offense led by Shannon Burns, along with Courtney Kennedy, Valerie Paolucci, Lindsey Mace, Natalie Basunga and Michelle Gildea. Cougars coach Keith Broome might go back to the same tactic he used the first two times he faced Radnor: have athletic freshman Alex Poplawski faceguard Freedman.
"I focus more on what we want to do," Radnor coach Phyllis Kilgour said. "We're looking forward to the challenge."
La Salle is in the same spot as last year, playing the same opponent, Conestoga, when it made history as the first boys' team to win an outright PIAA lacrosse title.
The new twist for today's PIAA state championship game (2 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium) is last year's La Salle team was senior-laden with 13 Division I signees and rolled over opponents. This year, the Explorers ground out a 21-2 mark and enter the game as an underdog to powerful Conestoga (23-2), arguably the best public school team in the country.
"I won't argue that, because Conestoga has been No. 1 all year and they have to be the favorites," La Salle coach Bill Leahy said. "Conestoga is a team as strong, if not stronger, at every position on the field. But no one expected [us] to get back here. We're here to win this, and these kids deserve to be here."
The Explorers will defend the title thanks to seniors like Pat Resch and Shane Pierce, but primarily on the backs of juniors Kevin Forster (Maryland commit), Jack Bogorowski, Mark DiFrangia and goalie John Lawlor.
"It always comes down to defense and La Salle plays very well defensively, you never score the same goal twice against them," said Conestoga coach Brian Samson. "This will come down to how well we execute."
It also will come down to how well La Salle stops the Pioneers' Matt Smith (team-high 49 points), a senior, and sophomore lefthanded attack Tyler Brooke (team-high 27 goals). Senior Ryan Buttenbaum will play a key role on faceoffs (has won 73 percent), while senior Ryan Lord and junior Brian Dailey have controlled the middle of the field and senior Casey Ikeda has stabilized the defense. *