The moment the Conestoga boys' lacrosse team longed for is here.
It was nice to nab the Central League championship. The Pioneers also enjoyed winning the District 1 title.
But those moments don't compare to winning a state championship. Conestoga now gets a chance to obtain that ultimate goal.
The Pioneers defeated Springfield (Delco), 9-4, in yesterday's PIAA state semifinal at Harriton.
Conestoga (24-1) will play in Saturday's 2 p.m. final at HersheyPark Stadium in Hershey. District 1's top-seeded team will face District 12 champion La Salle, a winner last night over District 3's top seed, Manheim Township.
The win also gave the Pioneers a sweep of this season's meetings with the Cougars. Conestoga beat Springfield, 12-9, in April. This loss ended the Cougars' season at 19-6. They were the District 1's third seed.
"This is what [all the hard work] has been leading up to," Jeff Chu, a Conestoga reserve junior attackman, said of advancing to the state final.
Getting this far shouldn't come as a surprise.
The Pioneers are ranked second in the state by Phillylacrosse.com. Conestoga is third in the nation, according to Laxpower.com's computer rankings. The Pioneers are also ranked 13th in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse national rankings.
"This is a special time," Chu said.
It was extra special for Chu and junior attackman Matt Smith. The duo stood out against the state's fifth-ranked team, according to Phillylacrosse.com.
Smith finished with a game-high three goals and two assists. Chu added two goals and two assists.
But early on, Springfield looked capable of pulling off the upset.
A lot of that had to do with Cougars goalie Austin Kaut, who finished with 15 saves. The junior stopped the Pioneers' first five shots en route to having seven first-quarter saves.
Springfield led, 1-0, thanks to sophomore attackman Joe Venit's goal with 5 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Pioneers answered 42 seconds later on a goal by Chu. Then, Mike Ackerman scored to give Conestoga a 2-1 advantage with 8:30 left in the second quarter.
Undaunted, Springfield went on to knot the score twice before intermission. The second time came when Joe Addona's goal made it a 3-3 contest with 2.9 seconds left in the half.
Outshooting the Cougars by 9-2, the Pioneers broke the game open in the third quarter. Austin Rogusky scored the go-ahead goal with 9:31 left in the quarter. The Pioneers led, 5-3, on Smith's first goal of the game with 2:16 left in the quarter.
"We just came out firing," Smith said of the second half.
Conestoga put the game out reach with two early fourth-quarter scores. Springfield pulled to within 7-4 on Venit's second goal with 6:05 remaining. But that was as close as the Cougars got.
Springfield (Delco) 1 2 0 1 - 4
Conestoga 1 2 2 4 - 9
GOALS: S-Jeff Venit 2, John Cugini, Joe Addona. C-Matt Smith 3, Jeff Chu 2, Mike Ackerman, Kevin Rudd, Austin Rogusky, Peter Bowers.
SAVES: S-Austin Kaut 15. C-Pete Zonino 5.