Villa Maria Academy lacrosse eyes a surprising state title

When Allie Sweeney became the girls’ lacrosse coach at Villa Maria Academy two years ago, she had no idea she would take her alma mater to a state championship game so soon.

Perhaps the process was faster after the PIAA broke its boys’ and girls’ lacrosse competitions into two classifications, thus adding more opportunities last season.

It also helped to have a squad full of talented, selfless athletes.

On Saturday morning at 10 a.m., the District 1 champion Hurricanes will face District 3’s Kennard-Dale at West Chester East in the PIAA 2A girls’ state championship game.

“It’s amazing,” Sweeney said. “It’s still a little bit surreal.”

Camera icon AARON CARTER / Staff
Allie Sweeney, Villa Maria Academy lacrosse coach

In the girls’ 3A finale, District 1 Unionville takes on District 3’s Mannheim Township at noon at West Chester East.

Sweeney, a 2008 Villa Maria grad, had been an assistant for two years before she took over the program.

In May, she led her squad to the school’s first District 1 championship. Since then, former teammates and classmates have reached out with congratulatory sentiments and well wishes.

“I think that’s something special about playing at Villa,” said Sweeney, who also played at Bucknell. “It’s a small school, and you become really tight, and that’s how our team is.”

The Hurricanes offense averages goals from seven players per game, Sweeney said. That depth will make them a tough matchup for Kennard-Dale, which makes its second trip to the state finale after getting rocked, 20-8, by Radnor last season.

Junior Abby Walheim typically dominates draw controls, which allowed Villa to control the tempo in the semifinals win over Radnor.

Walheim is a Villanova recruit and will compete against Kennard-Dale’s Megan Halczuk, who is the Rams’ draw control specialist.

This game, however, won’t likely be decided by a single matchup. In fact, the strength of Sweeney’s team all season suggests it can’t.

“When you have to worry about seven different girls,” Sweeney said, “you can’t shut down seven different girls. And also, when one girl is having a bad day, somebody else steps right in.”

Freshman “Mighty” Margie Carden led the Hurricanes with four goals in the semifinals. Walheim’s sister, Lizzy, is a senior midfielder headed to Fairfield, while junior attackers Sarah Delaney and Paige DeMutis will play at Franklin and Marshall and Coastal Carolina, respectively.

Facing that deep and talented attack every day in practice has made the Hurricanes’ defense a pillar of success all season.

If Villa Maria can put it all together one last time, Sweeney, who said her teams at Villa never made it far in district playoffs, could cap this unexpectedly speedy run with a state crown.

“I don’t think that I thought two years ago when I was hired that, ‘All right in two years we’ll be playing for this,’ ” she said. “But everything is falling into place, and the team has worked really hard all season.”