Perkiomen's Hannah Chiesa, right, takes a hit on her stick as a Barrack player tries to knock the ball loose during play in Monday's Tri-County League semi-final game.
The defensive shift made this spring by the Perkiomen School girls lacrosse team had some early issues, according to head coach Louisy Thompson.
In their first two games of the season – playing a man-to-man defense – the Panthers allowed 29 goals. In their second game, they lost in non-league action against Academy of the New Church.
"That one really hurt," Thompson said.
Since that defeat in early April, Perkiomen School recovered well enough to capture the Tri-County Independent School League.
On Monday, the Panthers posted a 17-5 won over Barrack Hebrew Academy in the semifinals. The next day, they captured the league title with a 17-12 win over visiting Kimberton Waldorf School.
"What a great game to end the season on," Thompson said Tuesday evening. "We had to work hard to win the championship."
Victoria Rath, a senior, scored four goals for the Panthers (15-2) in the title game. Stephanie Falcone contributed three goals and six assists, while Nicole Pupillo chipped in with three goals.
Kimberton Waldorf kept the game close, staying within four goals early in the second half.
"They came out strong and played real well," Thompson said. "Our girls were not prepared for their intensity. But we recovered."
In the semifinal, Falcone scored five goals for the Panthers. Rath, Pupillo and Mikayla Matthews each contributed three goals. Madison Faraco chipped in two goals while Hannah Chiesa scored once for Perkiomen School, which led 14-0 at halftime and was never challenged. Goalkeeper Madelyn Ferdock notched four saves.
Falcone scored three times in the initial 10 minutes. Her one-timer put the Panthers ahead 6-0 with 15:36 remaining in the first half. A goal by Pupillo, from Falcone, staked them to a 10-0 lead and invoked the running clock.
According to the coach, the change from a zone defense to a more fundamental defensive approach matched the game's basic skills.
"It is something you need to be able to do if you want to take the team to the next level," Thompson said.
Initially, the new defensive concept – which required defenders to follow one specific player all over the field – proved to be simpler and tiring, according to Panthers senior defender Emma Longstreth.
"The old defensive system was confusing," said Longstreth, who had played the seven previous seasons in a zone defense. "I didn't realize how confusing it was until we picked up the new system."
Thompson said she expected Perkiomen School's defensive personnel to make the transition.
"I didn't think it would be a problem," the coach said. "I figured it would play to our advantage since we have a lot of quick, athletic, smart players."
Longstreth said she needed to see the new defensive alignment succeed to be convinced of its potential.
"We're playing with confidence," Thompson said after the semifinal victory.