It's been 317 days since Conestoga lost in its first PIAA state final, squandering an early four-goal lead and handing Garnet Valley its second straight lacrosse championship and fourth in the last five years.
Last season was nearly perfect for the Pioneers, who finished with an 11-0 record in the Central League and captured their first league title in the tenure of seven-year head coach Amy Orcutt.
Although Conestoga's championship game loss is in the rearview mirror with the 2016 season underway, some players still feel the sting of the defeat.
"It definitely leaves a bitter taste," said Hannah Ashton, a senior attacker. "It makes us more motivated to get back there and just work really hard to make sure that we can get back."
Ashton looked determined to get redemption Saturday, tying her career-high with five goals as she led Conestoga to a 13-6 victory at Great Valley in a nonleague game.
The Pioneers were flowing from start to finish, going up 3-0 early en route to an 8-4 halftime lead and halting Great Valley's comeback attempt with a 4-1 run to end the game.
Four other players for the Pioneers (6-0) found the back of the net in addition to Ashton. Senior attacker Monica Borzillo netted three goals and added three assists, senior midfielder Sondra Dickey and senior attacker Paige Loose scored two goals apiece, and junior midfielder Liz Scott tallied a goal to go with two assists.
"I feel like that was the most overall team game we've ever played," Orcutt said. "From defense to offense, we were unselfish, and we played great team defense. We put a new defense in today, and obviously it worked, so I'm beyond pleased and proud of them."
In the postgame huddle, Orcutt named sophomore defender Emma McGillis defensive player of the game for her efforts as the "backer" in the team's newly employed defensive formation.
Junior attacker Olivia Muscella, who netted two goals, was the only player for Great Valley (4-2) to have multiple scores in the game. Conestoga senior goalkeeper Jules Horning had six saves on Great Valley's 12 shots on goal.
"They're such a strong team," Orcutt said of Great Valley. "We've played them so much, so we put in a different defense with a backer, and I think the backer really worked against them today."
Conestoga 8 5 - 13
Great Valley 4 2 - 6
C: Hannah Ashton 5, Monica Borzillo 3, Sondra Dickey 2, Paige Loose 2, Liz Scott.
GV: Olivia Muscella 2, Linnea Hughes, Stephanie Aker, Natalie Kahn, Ashlyn Smith.
Saves: C-Jules Horning 6; GV-Mia Tornetta 4.