OK, so ultimately, winning the Central League doesn’t help you much in the real season. Sure, it gets you a nice-looking seed, but ultimately, you’re still going to have to see the same teams over and over again if you want to be holding up the state title in Hersheypark Stadium.
Take a look at Kristen Hansen and Morgan Glassford celebrating the fact that Strath Haven earned a piece of the Central League title after a thrilling 12-11 win over Harriton, though, and there’s a feeling that maybe this means something.
“It’s awesome,” said Glassford, who was pretty awesome herself with four goals and three assists after a slow start. “We came into the game with a lot of confidence. We knew that if we won, we would be Central League champs, so we played as a team, we worked together.”
And that’s how it came to be that the Panthers, Rams, Radnor and Springfield can each lay claim to being champions of the league. Just think, if Garnet Valley All-Delco Coley Ricci hadn’t done Coley Ricci things to lead the Jaguars to an upset of Conestoga, the Pioneers also would have snared a piece of the title.
That’s how good the Central League is and that’s why it’s likely to make it five PIAA titles in a row June 8. Watching the Harriton-Strath Haven game makes you realize that these are two of the top four teams in the state and one of them might not even make it past the state quarterfinals because of matchups.
“Being the last game always makes us really excited,” said Kirsten Wilhelmsen, who had five points and also played her usually strong defensive and transition game. “We want to play well and finish off strong. Knowing that it’s Central League adds a little bit of pressure, I could say, but I think that coming off a week of Moorestown (N.J.) and tough games, I think we were ready for it.”
The Rams could have claimed the outright league title with a win, but after falling behind early, they never seemed to be able to put together a run despite a big game from sophomore Jane Henderson. Henderson and company will have to step up in the playoffs if more teams employ Strath Haven’s defensive strategy of face-guarding star sniper Caleigh Foust (although not everyone has a Lily Kovach-type to do that job, either).
I’ll try to have a full breakdown of everyone when the seedings come out, but the
Central League Invitational postseason will be a joy to watch. There are a bunch of different, contrasting styles that will provide intriguing clashes. I don’t think you can find more athletic teams than Strath Haven and Harriton. I don’t think anyone has as much depth as Conestoga. I don’t think anyone plays better defense than Radnor. Garnet Valley, which was basically written off after starting 5-4 overall and 2-4 in the league, is still the youngest team, but it’s a young team with experience and something to prove. Oh, and that’s not to mention the fact that the Jaguars are the two-time defending state champions with eight straight wins and no more than five goals given up in any of those games. Springfield has the most talented player in the state in two-time All-Delco Alex Poplawski and she’s got a pretty good running mate in sophomore Emily Santana.
If I had to guess, the District One seeding meeting will finish with the following top 8.
3. Strath Haven
6. Great Valley
7. Garnet Valley
I’m pretty confident about the top six, especially with Conestoga’s win over Great Valley. I think Garnet Valley has more signature wins than Boyertown. The Jaguars have beaten Good Counsel (Md.) and Conestoga. The Bears’ best wins came when they beat Owen J. Roberts three times. OJR is a solid team, but it probably wouldn’t be in the Central League’s top six. Haverford, led by Amanda Case‘s big year, should be a top-15 team. And the feeling that everything starts from fresh and the records get thrown out rings true.
“They do,” Harriton star Sabrina Tabasso said. “We’ve just got to come out and pretend like every team, we’ve never seen them before. We’re re-charging the batteries, throwing everything out, forgetting about it and coming out and hopefully winning the state championship.”
Ultimately, don’t be surprised if all six teams to advance to states from District One come from a certain league.
Oh hey, there are other leagues, too
Dynasties just keep rolling on in the Catholic and Inter-Ac Leagues. Archbishop Carroll breezed through the PCL’s regular season as expected and will likely make it a 13th straight league title after the playoffs. It would be a massive upset if anyone but the Patriots represented District 12 in the state tournament and from there, Carroll has proven this year that it can hang with and beat Central League teams. With Taryn Deck and All-Delco Natalie Schmitt running the offensive show, the Patriots can beat anyone.
Interboro claimed the Del Val title and might be on its way to mounting a dynasty like the one that Carroll has. The Bucs are virtually unstoppable in league play and it seems like their margin of victory is best measured in touchdowns, not single goals. Sami Barnett and Brianna Golden have a lot to do with that.
Finally, how about the nine-time Inter-Ac champion Episcopal Academy Churchmen? No matter what faces changes and no matter what challenges they face, they always seem to be able to string together just enough to win the league. The league schedule drags on for another week, but with zero losses to second place Notre Dame’s four losses, the title is wrapped up. Amanda Vos Strache will look to wrap up her EA career with another PAISAA title, too, after going 2-for-2 on Inter-Ac titles.
– MATT CHANDIK