MOORESTOWN – There are certain philosophies all coaches share in common. One of them is the hope that their teams will be playing at their highest level come postseason time.
That’s what appears to have happened with the Clearview High School girls lacrosse team which, on Tuesday, earned its way into the state Group 4 championship game.
The Pioneers got multiple goals from five different players and defeated Central Jersey champion Princeton 20-7 in a game played at Moorestown High School.
The Pioneers now face a huge challenge in the Group 4 state championship game against powerful Ridgewood on Saturday at Kean University.
But that’s a story for another day.
For now it’s important to note this is not the same Clearview team began the season. That team had a 6-5 record and a 3-game losing streak in progress after 11 games.
Now, with Tuesday’s win, the Pioneers have won 10 of 11, their only loss coming to Moorestown.
“We’ve had our roller coaster ride,” said Clearview coach Megan Conklin. “This might sound weird, but I think from those losses we learned a lot. That’s really showing up at the end of the season right now.”
One of the ways Conklin thinks that early three-game losing streak helped the team was it helped the players refocus on their goals.
“We really talked about accountability, and playing smart and consistent,” she said. “We just tried to narrow in on a couple of things.”
Throughout the tournament, which now includes four wins, the Pioneers have gotten big contributions from a number of different players.
Freshman sensations Hailey Russo continues be one of the team’s driving forces as she added five goals to the victory.
Senior teammates Dani Paterno added four goals while Camryn Pennypacker and Alyssa DeAngelo added three each.
Additionally goalie Reilly Shaup made many big saves, which helped assure her team would stay on top throughout the game.
Like her coach, Pennypacker spoke about how the Pioneers have shaken off the effects of what she called, ``an up and down season.”
“I think were primed to grow together as a team throughout the season,” she said. “I think the post-season is really our prime, and we’ve jelled together. We play for each other because we know at this time of the year every game could be out last game.”
Her sentiments were shared by Paterno, who thinks her team is playing its best right now.
“We’ve learned a lot from the season and we’ve overcome a lot of stuff,” she said. “I think we’re taking all of that into consideration and we’re really excited to be here.”
The Pioneers determination to win the game was evident even before many of the fans even made way to their seats.
They opened the game by winning three straight drawballs and the turned each possession into three quick goals.
Pennypacker opened the scoring just 12 seconds into the game, and the Pioneers then extended that lead to three on goals by Paterno and Jill Verelle before the game was two minutes old.
Conklin was quick to reply when asked the team’s motivation for getting off to such a fast start.
“We want wanted to get to the state championship,” she said. “Before the game we talked about how all the snow practices and indoor practices have led us to this moment.”
After the quick start, Cleaview took a bit of a breath and Princeton pulled to within 3-2 before Pennypacker’s second goal opened it up a little again.
With Pennypacker adding a third goal and Russo scoring her first two of the game, the Pioneers race to a 10-5 halftime lead, and then dominated the second half.
“We worked so hard the entire season to get here,” Russo said. “We’ve really come together with the coaches and the whole team and now we’re playing as one.”
State Group 4 semifinal
Princeton 5 2-7
Princ: Mariana Lopez-Ova 3, Eva Patrone 3, Abaigeal Ryan.
Clear: Camryn Pennypacker 3, Dani Paterno 4, Jill Verrelle 2, Hailey Russo 5, Alyssa DeAngelo 3, Daniel Brown, Rachel Johnson, Claire Eisenhorn.