Yet after the game and a 10-minute team meeting, Garnet Valley star attacker Halley Barnes had damp eyes, dejected after a win in which she scored two goals and assisted on two. She had to be consoled by coaches and teammate Allyson Heavens.
"I'm really hard on myself," Barnes said. "I wasn't satisfied with the way I played or my team played."
Self-deprecation is nothing new for Barnes, a perfectionist, who last year with Heavens led Garnet Valley to a state championship, something the team never expected to compete for at the season's outset.
The year began with modest goals. The Jags had never won a postseason game. They aimed simply to reach the district quarterfinals.
"We didn't know [a state title] was in our reach," Henwood said. "We knew we were good, but we thought it would take another year to get there."
What materialized was a glorious run to the District 1 final, in which they lost to Downingtown East, before regrouping to beat the same East team, 17-14, in the PIAA final mere weeks later.
It was the school's first team state title, in any sport.
"It actually helped us to lose the district championship," Barnes said. "It fueled us. We were so hungry for it. This year, we've been focused on harnessing the hunger we had last year and putting it in every single game - having a grit and a swag that we had last year."
The Jaguars' campaign to repeat begins with Barnes and Heavens, two of the nation's top recruits in their class.
Barnes, who committed to Rutgers, ranks as the No. 15 recruit in the nation, by ESPNHS. Heavens, a midfielder who projects as a defender in college, is No. 2 overall and has committed to Penn State.
Their elevated status comes because of their junior seasons. For Barnes, it actually began with a self-described deplorable sophomore year.
"I remember every game being so disappointed in myself and so disappointed in the way that I played," she said.
So Barnes went to Henwood that offseason and asked for a full regimen. She did it all: film sessions, strengthening exercises, conditioning, footwork drills, positioning techniques, stick play, etc. A lot of the same stuff Henwood did as a college player at La Salle.
Barnes said she didn't total even 100 goals through her first two varsity seasons, but as a junior she amassed a dizzying 118, along with 40 assists. Better yet, 37 of those goals came across eight postseason games, culminating in a four-goal, four-assist performance in the state final.
Heavens, with her prodigious speed and elusiveness, amassed 64 goals (five in the PIAA final) and 40 assists. She was named a U.S. Lacrosse all-American, an honor some believe Barnes deserved as well.
"I feel extremely blessed to be able to coach this caliber of athlete," said Henwood, a 2001 Garnet Valley grad who is in her third season as coach. ". . . It's a blessing, sort of like the perfect storm, these girls growing up a couple years behind me. I was able to come back."
With a No. 10 national ranking and a 5-0 start this season, the Jags have plenty to play for, state title notwithstanding. The team would like to win outright the Central League, a title the Jaguars shared with three others last year, when they went 24-3 overall, 9-2 league. They also would like to win their first District 1 title.
Barnes and Heavens have played together since the fifth grade. They humbly credit each other with their own successes. They'll go down as the two best players in program history, state champs already. In their eyes, though, that's not what defines them.
"We are always going to be the underdogs," Heavens said.
Girls' Lacrosse Guide
Players to Watch
Halley Barnes, attack, Sr., Garnet Valley. In 2011, Barnes amassed 118 goals and 40 assists as a junior team captain. Committed to Rutgers and widely considered one of the top recruits in the nation, Barnes will be a major factor in the Jaguars' bid for a second straight PIAA title.
Allyson Heavens, midfield, Sr., Garnet Valley. Super fast and versatile, Heavens is another blue-chip recruit (Penn State-bound) for the Jags. She scored 64 goals and added 40 assists as a junior and was named a U.S. Lacrosse All-American. She is ranked the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2012 by ESPNHS.
Katrina Geiger, midfield, Sr., Haverford High. Geiger scored a team-high 92 goals, with 22 assists, as a junior and was a first-team all-Central League selection. Geiger's production will be key yet again for the Fords in a league stacked with talent. She'll play at Loyola (Md.) in college.
Maddy Lynch, midfield, Jr., Springfield (Delco). Lynch led the Cougars with 87 goals and 26 assists for a team-high 113 points last year. She highlights a roster capable of making serious noise at every level (league, district, state) this season. She's Princeton-bound.
Kelly Cross, midfield, Sr., Upper Dublin. Cross, a Syracuse recruit, scored 95 goals and added 54 assists for the Cardinals last year, helping Upper Dublin reach its first PIAA tournament.
Brooke Kiley, midfield, Sr., Germantown Academy. Kiley, who has committed to Penn, returns as the Patriots' leading scorer from last year but will have her hands full in trying to help the program to an Inter-Ac League crown. GA went just 5-15 overall and 2-10 in the league.
Emily Pillion, defense, Sr., Conestoga. A James Madison signee, Pillion is a returning Central League first-teamer and was the Pioneers' defensive MVP in 2011. ESPN ranks her as the No. 4 defender in the class of 2012 nationally.
Ally McLaughlin, defense, Sr., Harriton. McLaughlin ranks as the No. 49 recruit in the nation (ESPNHS) and is considered one of the better defenders nationally. She will attend Division III Pomona (Calif.) to compete in both lacrosse and cross-country. She was a first-team all-Central League selection and U.S. Lacrosse Academic all-American as a junior.
Teams to Watch
Garnet Valley. The defending PIAA champion returns 10 starters and touts seven Division I recruits, six all-league selections, and blue-chippers in Halley Barnes (Rutgers) and Allyson Heavens (Penn State). AnnaElise Morello (Yale) is back after dishing 108 assists last season. Oh, and the Jaguars rank 10th in ESPNHS's national poll.
Archbishop Carroll. Winner of 11 consecutive Catholic League crowns, Carroll is the preeminent program in District 12. The Patriots opened the season with a 16-8 loss to Garnet Valley, but that shouldn't deter them. They're still in good shape to build on an 18-4 season and a second-round appearance in the PIAA tourney.
Downingtown East. The Cougars (25-2 last year) lost standout Kelly Devlin, now at North Carolina, who graduated with career totals of 202 goals and 236 assists. Still, the defending District 1 and Ches-Mont League champs should remain a force this season. Mackenzie Rafferty, a Delaware recruit, leads the attack. A loss in the 2011 PIAA title game still lingers.
Springfield (Delco). One of four teams to share the Central League crown last year, Springfield has the talent to separate from the pack this season. Michelle Gildea, a Towson recruit, leads the defensive unit. Maddy Lynch (87 goals last season), headed to Princeton, will spur the team's offense. The Cougars can give a rival such as Garnet Valley some trouble.
Great Valley. Great Valley returns at least eight key players from a team that last year ran to the PIAA semifinals, going 21-4 along the way. Midfielder Ali Karwoski, who was the area's leading goal-scorer with 132 and added 23 assists last year, leads the pack. The Patriots edge Downingtown East as the preseason favorite to win the Ches-Mont and have state-title aspirations.
Episcopal Academy. Episcopal went undefeated en route to an Inter-Ac crown and 18-3 overall and claimed the Pennsylvania Independent Schools state championship last year. The team lost four Division I players to graduation, but there's no reason to pick against a program that has won its last seven league titles - and 11 of the last 12.
- Evan Burgos
Contact Evan Burgos at firstname.lastname@example.org.