Senior Kelly Devlin remembers the first three years of her lacrosse career at Downingtown East. The Cougars were lucky to win a handful of games in the very competitive Ches-Mont League.
This season has been a totally different story for Devlin and her senior teammates.
The Cougars, who won the Ches-Mont National Division crown and the District 1 Class AAAA title, stand on the threshold of a PIAA championship thanks to a 9-8 win over Great Valley in the state semifinals Tuesday at Harriton.
The win puts the Cougars (24-1) in a 1 p.m. state final Saturday at HersheyPark Stadium against District 1 runner-up Garnet Valley.
The Cougars won by scoring three goals during a six-minute stretch of the second half to overcome a one-goal deficit, and then hanging on.
"We knew Great Valley would be a tough game," Devlin said, noting that the Cougars had beaten the Patriots, 9-7, during the regular season. "It was a physical and quick game. It was also a very mental game.
"I think it's great for the Ches-Mont with two teams in the semifinals.
"East had never won a title - we've been just over or just under .500, although we've been a good team - and now we have a chance to win three [championships]."
Devlin was asked what the difference between this year's team and her previous East teams was.
"Seniority," replied Devlin, who scored one of the Cougars goals. "After three years, we picked up some wisdom."
In a game that was tied six times, Great Valley (21-4), the fourth-place team from District 1, jumped out in front on the first of two goals by Emily Scullin. Less than one minute had ticked off the clock.
East tied it five minutes later on a goal by Ashley Poli.
Emily Karwoski, who led all players with four goals, made it 2-1 at the 17-minute mark before Devlin tied it less than two minutes later.
McKenzie Rafferty gave East its first lead, 3-2, on a bouncer into the net. The first half ended at 4-4 when Scullin dumped the ball in the East goal with 4:32 left.
Emily Solenberger had what she and her Cougars mates thought was the go-ahead goal shortly after the halftime break, but it was disallowed.
That didn't seem to bother Solenberger, as she pumped in a pair of goals in a minute span to make it 6-4.
Then it was Karwoski's turn to pick up the Patriots. She had a pair of goals, and Katie Lasater added a beautifully executed third one as the Patriots took a 7-6 lead with 13 minutes to play.
At that point, East coach Caitlin Barbakoff called a timeout. Less than a minute later, the Cougars tied it, 7-7, on a goal by Haley Nelson.
They followed that up with a goal by freshman Linnea Faccenda in which the ball rolled into the goal after it was knocked from her control. A goal by McKenzie Rafferty with 6:08 left was enough of a cushion as Karwoski got Great Valley's last goal with 4:41 remaining.
East goalie Allie Murray, who finished with nine saves, made a spectacular stop on a shot by Scullin with 1:45 left. Great Valley goalie Jenna Morris made eight saves.
"We were excited about playing them," Great Valley coach Joe Tornetta said. "We had the opportunities; we just didn't make good on them. Our defense was great, and we did a good job of possessing the ball."
Great Valley 4 4 – 8
Downingtown East 4 5 – 9
Goals: GV-Emily Karwoski 4, Emily Scullin 2, Rachel Kalick, Katie Lasater; DE-Emily Solenberger 2, McKenzie Rafferty 2, Kelly Devlin, Linnea Faccenda, Meghan Hubbard, Haley Nelson, Ashley Poli.
Saves: GV-Jenna Morris 8; DE-Allie Murray 9.