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By Jack McCaffery, Delaware County Daily Times

WEST GOSHEN – The Radnor High lacrosse season had yet to start, but Brooke Fritz already knew it
would be a good time for a reprise of a program tradition. That it would occur when it
did only supported the idea.

Knowing she had lost eight key players to graduation, and all eight to some measure of college lacrosse success, and aware that a transition season was due, Fritz arranged for a team-bonding drill, directed by Optimal Performance, run by Keith Waldman.

“We did it back when Phyllis was here,” said Fritz, who in 2010 replaced the legendary Phyllis Kilgour as the Raiders’ coach. “But it’s been four or five years since we did it. And these guys haven’t had it yet, or if they did, it was in their freshman year. But we did some indoor communication drills and things like that. And we made it clear that we had to do this together.”

What the Raiders did, through organized team-building or just by shooting the lacrosse ball with accuracy, was win the PIAA District One championship with an amazing late-season run topped Thursday with a 12-8 championship-game victory over Owen J. Roberts.

After beginning the season at 5-5, the Raiders would win 12 of their next 13 to take a 17-6 record and a clear team-wide confidence into the state tournament. While there were explanations for the slow start — including the substantial roster turnover and Fritz’s willingness to accept some early national challenges — there was something about the willingness of the players to accept the non-playing facet of their lacrosse education that helped.

“He just told us different things, like how to stand when we were together, to not turn away from any of our teammates, to include everybody,” said senior Emily Games. “It was team-bonding. And we did a few team-bonding things. It definitely helped.”

Games bagged four goals against Owen J. Roberts, which carried a 21-3 record into the neutral-site game at West Chester East. That helped, too, as did Katie Quinn’s hat trick, two goals apiece from Hope Smith and Fallon Quinn, a goal from Abigail Lord and the winning goaltending of Alexa Solomon. What helped more than anything, though, was the Raiders’ unwillingness to believe that the .500 record after 10 games, including the program’s first loss to Haverford since 1997, was a reflection of their ability.

“They were all pretty close games,” Fritz said. “And our league beats us up. It was just game after game after game of Springfield, Garnet … and the one I want back, Haverford. But we were
young, too, as far as making good decisions.”

As with anything in sports, timing helped. Originally, the out-sourced team-bonding seminar was
planned for earlier in the season, except that, as Fritz said, Waldman required knee surgery. That pushed the lesson into the gut of that slow start.

“We realized that we just can’t rely on individual skills,” Fritz said. “I think it helped with the communication. I think it helped with them getting to know each other a little better and realizing what worked for different people. Because they are really, really close on and off the field. But they are also really nice. And it kind of toughened them up a little. It was, ‘All right, we have these obstacles; we have to fight through them.’”

One by one, obstacles were cleared, not that it was universally noticed, as the Raiders were stamped with a No. 9 seed in the district playoffs. Owen J. Roberts, which also advanced to the state tournament, was the No. 6 seed. But at the minimum, the Raiders’ senior class Thursday made a formal addition to the royal Radnor lacrosse tradition, claiming the school’s first district championship since 2012.

“We do feel like,” Games said, “we have left our own imprint now.”

After the game, in which they trailed, 3-1, the Raiders naturally jumped around, posed for a team picture and then carried on in front of a TV camera, enjoying the moment, enjoying each other.

“We were able to bond,” Games said, “as a team.”

It’s what can happen when a coach has an idea that something just might work.

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