Strath Haven earned a berth in the first PIAA girls' lacrosse state championship game.
But the Panthers had to put down a furious Unionville rally last night to score a 16-14 triumph and set up, as expected, a title game Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium featuring two District 1 teams.
By beating the Indians (21-4), the fifth-place team from the district, the Panthers get to play District 1 champion and Central League rival Radnor for the third time this season.
Radnor, which won both earlier meetings, made the finals by routing District 3 champion Manheim Township, 23-2.
"We know we'll have to bring our A game against Radnor," Strath Haven coach Margie Garrity said after watching her daughter, Emily, score seven goals against the Indians, including the 400th of her high school career.
"If we bring our A game we can hang with anybody. The [first] state championship has been our goal."
The Panthers (21-4), the third-place team from District 1, appeared to have their A game in gear in the first half last night. After spotting Unionville leads of 1-0 and 2-1, they went on a spree that put them up 6-2. Garrity scored four goals as Strath Haven built a 9-4 halftime lead. The Panthers stretched that to 13-4 in the first five minutes of the second half.
But after Annalise Penikis scored that 13th goal with just under 20 minutes to play, the Indians came roaring back. Led by Lindsey Smith, they outscored Strath Haven, 10-3, over the final 161/2 minutes. Smith finished with five goals.
"With a team like Strath Haven you can't wait to start to play until the second half like we did," said Indians coach Wendy Landry. "The last game with them [a 10-6 loss in the District 1 semifinals] we had Lindsey trying to take Emily out of her game. When we did that we took Lindsey out of her game. Tonight, we just didn't always play smart. We threw too many balls away."
For Garrity, her seven-goal effort was her way of celebrating her final day of school. She will head south to play at North Carolina in the fall after becoming just the third high school girl to score 400 career goals, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
"I don't pay attention to those things," said Garrity. "I knew it was coming, and I was hoping I'd get it today."
She said she didn't panic when Unionville started its comeback.
"I just said, 'Possess the ball,' and if we lose it, 'Redefend it, and get it back.' "
Strath Haven goalie Lela Meunier said she was a little concerned by the Unionville surge. But she was confident the team could withstand it.
"I know it's an up-and-down game," she said after posting nine saves.
Fortunately for the Panthers, they had more ups than downs.
Unionville 4 10 - 14
Strath Haven 9 7 - 16
Goals: U-Lindsey Smith 5, Erica Midiri 3, Julie Moran 3, Jackie Thaeder, Erin Linthicum, Julie Truluck. SH-Emily Garrity 7, Ana White 3, Annalise Penikis 3, Alex Duckenfield 2, Clare Sherry.
Saves: U-Melissa Lloyd 9. SH-Lela Meunier 9.