Alex Poplawski is usually a shoo-in to win draws for her Springfield (Delco) lacrosse team. At 5-foot-11, the Stanford recruit typically uses her height advantage to overwhelm counterparts.
But when the Cougars traveled to Upper Dublin on Friday for their regular-season finale, Poplawski was up against Kelly Cross, also 5-11, the Cardinals' Syracuse-signed midfielder with some faceoff prowess of her own.
"Alex is able to usually take the draws, but Kelly Cross is just as tall as her and she's a very good player," Springfield coach Keith Broome said. "They kind of neutralize each other. "This is a game of draw control. Whoever takes the draws is going to win the game."
Friday, the draw count went 12-10 in favor of Upper Dublin. Strangely, that advantage didn't correlate to victory, but the Cougars came away with a far more significant 12-10 statistical advantage: goals scored.
Despite failing to dictate play in the faceoff circle, Springfield emerged with a tough road win that will bolster its resume when the District 1 playoff seedings are calculated Sunday.
The victory guarantees Springfield (15-3) a top-eight seed in the district tourney. Moreover, it likely locked up a top-six seed, which translates to two home games to begin the postseason, assuming the Cougars advance past Tuesday's opener.
"We really didn't play very smart today," Broome said. "We're happy that we got the win, but we have to play a lot smarter than that. We threw the ball away a lot."
Poplawski, a junior, led the way, recording a game-high four goals and four assists. Though the Cougars lost the faceoff battle, Poplawski began the second half, with the score knotted 3-3, by winning three draws in a row to spur a three-goal run that gave the Cougars the lead for good.
"In the first half, we were struggling to get the draw control, so that was our focus at halftime," Poplawski said. "We said we needed to run through the ball and get control, and that's when we can get our offense going."
Springfield scored nine goals on 12 shots after intermission, and at one juncture held a six-goal lead.
Upper Dublin (15-3), which pummeled league foes in the Suburban One League American Conference this season, outscoring opponents by 195-31, staged a late-game run.
Trailing by 12-6 with less than five minutes to go, the Cardinals reeled off four straight goals, three of which were assisted by Cross. They drew within two with 42.4 seconds left, but by then, the game was out of reach.
"I'm happy with the game today," said Cardinals coach Dee Cross, Kelly's mother. "I wanted to play them close, and we did."
In recent years, Upper Dublin had never gotten closer than within six goals against Springfield, Dee Cross said.
Kelly Cross finished with three goals and three assists to lead Upper Dublin. Seniors Brooke Callahan and Emily Hitchings also added three goals apiece.
Springfield (Delco) 3 9 - 12
Upper Dublin 3 7 - 10
Goals: S-Aly Gormley, Michelle Gildea, Alex Poplawski 4, Maddy Lynch, Kelly Lynch, Tori Grossi, Autumn Spence, Nathalie Basunga, Kelsey Crystle; UD-Kelly Cross 3, Brooke Callahan 3, Emily Hitchings 3, Julie Cross.
Saves: S-Chrissy Hughes 4; UD-Sarah Gallagher 6.