Back in December, Abby Walheim felt a familiar pain in her right foot that she immediately feared could have again ended two seasons.
Saturday afternoon at West Chester East, however, Walheim, a stellar junior midfielder for Villa Maria Academy, felt nothing but bliss as the Hurricanes won their first PIAA girls' AA lacrosse championship, 17-5, against District 3's Kennard-Dale.
"I honestly didn't think I'd be here," Walheim said. "The doctors didn't think I'd be here right now so it honestly feels so good to get a state championship when people didn't even think I'd be here."
Walheim injured her foot, she remembers vividly, while trying to cross over an opponent against Norte Dame Academy at Villa on Dec. 23.
The pain she felt was reminiscent of the broken right foot she suffered the previous season, which kept her from the rest of the basketball season and all of lacrosse.
So when it potentially could have happened again…
"I was so scared," she said. "But thank God I'm ok."
The foot technically still isn't 100 percent, but she is pain-free, much to the chagrin of Kennard-Dale (21-5).
Ten seconds into Saturday's proceedings, Walheim, a draw-control specialist, won the opening draw, galloped downfield and passed to sophomore Hannah Young, who immediately gave the Hurricanes (23-2) momentum and a 1-0 advantage.
"Every team needs that first goal," said second-year coach Allie Sweeney, a 2008 graduate of Villa Maria Academy. "It settles every one down across the field."
Walheim won eight draws in the game, while the Hurricanes enjoyed a 14-5 advantage in draws during the game.
Senior Erin Finley won the other six draws and also led the team with four goals.
Sweeney, who played collegiately at Bucknell, has raved about her team's selflessness all season.
Illustrative of that point, when a more-raucous-than-usual cheer erupted after Finley's fourth goal, she was a touch confused.
"I was like, 'it's just a goal, relax!'" she said with a laugh, gold medal dangling from her neck.
After all, it had made the game, 14-4, with 12 minutes, 40 seconds left still to play.
The tally, however, was the 100th of her career.
"I had no idea," Finely said. "No one told me!"
Later, she added: "The important thing is what's around my neck."
Young finished with three goals, all in the first half. Juniors Adele Iacobucci and Paige DeMutis also added two goals apiece for Villa.
Senior goaltender Maddie Medve supplied six stops, including a 1-on-1 fast break and another point-blank opportunity for Kennard-Dale, which only trailed 6-2 with 9 minutes, 50 seconds left in the half.
On the ensuing possession after that save, junior defender Kristy Kucia scored her only goal, 29 seconds later. Eventually, Villa took a 10-2 lead into halftime.
"We don't have that one person to do it all or rely on," Walheim said. "We're relying on everyone, so it's fun to know your teammates have your back and everyone trusts each other."
Walheim finished with a goal and three assists. Her older sister, Lizzy, is a senior who will play at Fairfield next season.
The future at Villa seems bright. The Hurricanes lose five starters, but have several talented underclassmen with promise that could have their classmates singing the school's alma mater a few more times on the final day of the season.
Music to their coach's ears.
"I was like, 'I know this song!' And I started singing," Sweeney said. "I was here playing and now I get to coach. It's a cool thing to coach at your alma mater and know you've worn the same jersey and had the same goal. It's amazing."
Villa Maria Academy 10 7 17
Kennard-Dale 2 3 5
VMA: Erin Finley 4, Hannah Young 3, Sarah Delaney 3, Paige DeMutis 2, Adele Iacobucci 2, Bridget Finely, Kristy Kucia, Abby Walheim.
K-D: Morgan Boeing's 2, Maddie Day 2, Megan Halczuk.
Saves: VMA — Maddie Medve 6; K-D Maria Schneider 5.