The Pioneers won their first South Jersey Group IV championship in six years when they defeated Eastern, 14–11, on Thursday.
The Clearview Regional High School girls lacrosse team that took the field in Thursday’s South Jersey Group IV championship game against Eastern Regional High School had come a long way in a little less than one month.
On April 28, the Pioneers dropped a game to Rancocas Valley Regional High School, 13–8. At that point, Clearview had a 6–5 record, had already lost twice to Eastern and was looking to rebound heading into the home stretch of the regular season.
Nearly one month later, the Pioneers were South Jersey champions for just the second time in program history. Clearview upset Eastern, 14–11, for the team’s first sectional title since 2012.
“Going into postseason, I think we were just climbing all the way up,” senior Camryn Pennypacker said. “We were going up and going fast.”
Over the last few seasons, Clearview had gone on deep playoff runs, but kept falling short in the late rounds of the sectional tournament. With a large senior class of 10 players and an infusion of young talent led by freshman leading scorer Hailey Russo, it was championship or bust for the Pioneers this year.
“It was something we had to re-visit during the season,” head coach Megan Conklin said of the team’s championships aspirations. “We had some highs and some lows.”
Clearview had played Eastern twice in Olympic Conference play in April, losing both times in tight games. For their third meeting, the Pioneers made a number of changes.
“We really studied,” senior Dani Paterno said. “We did our homework. We figured out what they like to do and how their defense likes to play.”
“We changed our whole entire game plan,” senior Alyssa DeAngelo added. “We got a whole new lineup, a whole new way to play.”
Clearview stunned Eastern early in the game, scoring eight goals in the first 10 minutes of action. By the time Russo scored the Pioneers’ eighth goal 9:52 into the game, Clearview had built an 8–1 lead. Eastern was never able to make the deficit closer than three goals.
A key factor for Clearview’s fast start was Pennypacker, who won draw after draw against Eastern’s Savannah Slack in the first half. Clearview’s outstanding draw control allowed them to remain on offense for the vast majority of the game’s opening minutes.
“The beginning of the game, we really came out with fire,” Pennypacker said. “There was nothing holding us back. We were hungry for the ball. We wanted to get those ground balls and we were scrappy just to get them.”
“The first time we played them, we had 32 percent draw control,” Conklin added. “We knew if we were going to win the game, we had to win the draw. That was a point of emphasis at practice this week.”
Thursday’s win was just the latest in a recent winning stretch for the Pioneers. Since the April 28 Rancocas Valley loss, Clearview has won eight of nine games. The win over Eastern was the team’s fifth in a row.
“We went through everything together,” DeAngelo said. “Every obstacle, every high and low we went through. For us to pull it out in the end, it makes it a perfect ending.”
The Pioneers’ postseason will continue on Tuesday, May 29 when Clearview plays either Princeton High School or Rancocas Valley Regional High School in the NJSIAA Group IV state semifinals at Moorestown High School. Check back with www.mullicahillsun.com next week for an update on Clearview’s progress.