To hear Monica Borzillo tell it, nothing was going to stop Conestoga from winning the PIAA girls' lacrosse championship this time.
Saturday morning at West Chester East, the Lady Pioneers, who finished runner-up last season, could not be denied. Conestoga ran away from Radnor, 18-7, to claim its first girls' lacrosse state championship.
"We finished the season!" said Borzillo, who coupled four goals with eight assists. "Our whole goal this year was to get back here and win it. Last year, we had it ripped from us by Garnet Valley. This year, we said: 'No, way. This is our game.' "
After the teams traded two goals apiece early, the Lady Pioneers went on a 10-1 run that ended the first half and bled into the second. Another 6-1 flurry in the second half left no doubt.
"I'm bursting with joy for these girls," said coach Amy Orcutt. "They've worked so hard all year and remained focused."
The Lady Pioneers (24-1) spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in the region according to laxpower.com, leading to pressure and expectations.
To cope, the team used the mantra "hold the rope," an inspirational idea introduced to the Lady Pioneers by Dante Coles, who works at the school.
The idea reportedly originated as a football inspiration years ago, but for Conestoga, it symbolized the togetherness required to survive adversity. Each player theoretically holds the rope of a teammate who may be struggling, thus ensuring collective success.
"If you're bleeding and your hands are getting splinters, you're still holding that rope," Borzillo said.
"In hard times you have to remember that everyone has your back, and you all have to be on the same page," said senior goalie Jules Horning, who finished with seven saves. "Whether you play, you're on the bench, or in the game."
Senior attacker Paige Loose and sophomore attacker Amelia Kienzle finished with three goals apiece, while senior midfielder Sondra Dickey added two more for Conestoga. Junior midfielder Liz Scott also added a pair of goals.
For Radnor (20-7), the surprise District 1 champion, Katie Quinn scored three goals, and Emily Games added a pair.
The Red Raiders had upset Conestoga in the district quarterfinals last month, but the Lady Pioneers regrouped, determined not to let the disappointment of last season haunt them again.
"This is our last game," Borzillo said. "Me and all these other seniors will never play together again, and that's what really drove us to finish this game. Last year's disappointment was still raging in us in the beginning of the season."
Horning added: "After experiencing last year, we came in and knew it would be tough, but we played a great game. It's just great to go out and win this for Conestoga."
Conestoga 10 8 - 18
Radnor 3 4 - 7
Goals: C-Monica Borzillo 4, Sondra Dickey 2, Paige Loose 3, Amelia Kienzle 3, Liz Scott 2, Hannah Ashton 2, Maggie Gladden, Rilee Scott; R-Fallon Quinn 2, Katie Quinn 3, Emily Games 2.
Saves: C–Jules Horning 7; R–Alex Solomon 4.