READING — Manheim Township’s nine-goal second-half lead evaporated to one with under two minutes left in Tuesday evening’s PIAA Class 3A girls lacrosse semifinal.
Suddenly, what looked like a sure thing seemed to be slipping from the grasp of the Blue Streaks. But Manheim Township responded by winning the ensuing draw control and nearly running out the clock before the team’s only seniors stepped up when Lucy Svetec fed Ashlyn Campagna with 17 seconds left.
It was Svetec’s only assist and Campagna’s only score, and was the dagger to Garnet Valley in the Streaks’ 14-12 victory under a setting sun at Exeter Township High School.
“I knew they were going to have their run,” Svetec said afterward. “It was definitely nerve-wracking that they had their run that close to the end.”
District One No. 3-seed Garnet Valley had come in having won last Saturday’s state quarterfinal in part by shutting out the opposing team’s leading scorer. The District 3 champion Blue Streaks (22-3) didn’t have any trouble with the Jaguars’ defense, however, in scoring the game’s first six goals less than 10 minutes in.
“It was nice to come out hot,” Svetec said. “They were pressing hard on the ball so they were leaving holes on the backside. So it was taking advantage of that. And we watched some film of their defense and thinking about what we were going to do in it. It worked perfectly with how we do our offense because we are a high-assist offense.”
Manheim Township tallied assists on eight of the 14 scores, again led by the team-leader in helpers Megan Rice (two goals, four assists). The Streaks also scored five times following Garnet Valley turnovers.
Svetec (five goals, one assist, five draw controls, four ground balls, one caused turnover), Campagna (one goal, one assist, four draw controls, two ground balls) and junior midfielder Abby Laubach (one draw control) did a nice job contending with Garnet Valley 6-1 senior midfielder Madi McKee on the draw control, where the Streaks were nearly an even split in the midfield battles until the final 15 minutes.
“It’s keeping it away from her (McKee) is the strategy,” Svetec said. “It was just trying to get it out to the circle and let our girls scrap for the ball.”
Manheim Township sophomore goalkeeper Gail Wilkes made eight of her 10 saves in the opening frame to help the Streaks go to the break up 8-3.
Svetec’s final score of the day later pushed Manheim Township’s advantage to 13-4 with 15:04 remaining before Garnet Valley began its comeback.
The Jaguars (21-4) won seven of the next eight draw controls and rallied for eight-straight scores to cut their deficit to 13-12 with 1:52 left.
“Our speed with the ball changed,” Garnet Valley coach Jenny Purvis said. “When we started moving it a lot faster, just by nature it forces their defense to be out of position a little bit more and we could find the openings....those last 15 minutes our shot selection was fantastic because we worked it a little bit longer to find the right look. That made a huge difference.”
Winners of four state titles, Garnet Valley fell short in the state semifinal round for the fourth year in a row. Meanwhile, Manheim Township returns to the state final for the second year in a row after reaching that stage last spring for the first time in program history.
The Streaks also became just the second District Three girls program to twice reach the PIAA championship contest.
They’ll square off with District One runner-up Harriton (23-2) in Saturday’s title tilt at 12 p.m. at West Chester East High School.
“It means the world to us,” Svetec said. “To get there for the first time last year and fall short. ...that put a chip on our shoulders. Coming into the season we had our eyes set on one thing and that was the state championship. It’s been a huge motivator for us.”