Moorestown girls' lacrosse gets another chance at Tournament of Champions history

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The Moorestown girls lacrosse team celebrates after beating Summit to win the Group 3 state championship on June 2.

In some ways, it’s unchartered territory.

In others, it’s one of the most familiar scenes in New Jersey scholastic sports.

On Saturday night at 5 p.m., the Moorestown girls’ lacrosse team will meet Ridgewood in the Tournament of Champions finals.

The game will decide the state’s overall top team.

Since 1978, it’s a title Moorestown has claimed 21 times.

Nine times since New Jersey began hosting state championships in the sport in 1976, Moorestown was runner-up.

That’s not just one of the most eye-popping runs of success in state history, it places Moorestown girls lacrosse among the most highly regarded high school programs, in any sport, in the nation.

Saturday, though, will be a first.

This is Moorestown’s first ToC finals appearance since 2014. That means no player on the current roster has ever played in a state final.

And that’s never happened before.

“We’ve been talking a lot about it as a team,” said coach Deanna Knobloch. The team focuses on “the tradition of Moorestown and what these players are a part of. And that’s part of what made them so determined to get back here this year.”

Camera icon STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Moorestown’ Ava Frantz (bottom) dives in front of Haddonfield’s Natalie Depersia in the Tournament of Champion semifinals on June 6.

Most of the Quakers grew up in the town and have played the sport most of their lives.

They grow up idolizing the high school players, watching history being made and dreaming of the time when it will be their turn.

“When we were kids, we went to every ToC game,” said senior Cailin Field. “I remember being in fifth grade and going to the games with my friends and just watching Moorestown dominate teams.

“So it’s cool to be in this moment now because it’s been such a long time coming.”

The Quakers’ drought the last three years wasn’t so much a product of the program falling off as it was a product of the rise of several North Jersey powers.

Moorestown won the Group 3 state title in 2015 before falling in the ToC semis to Oak Knoll, which went on to win the ToC. The Quakers lost the state Group 3 title in 2016 to Summit. Summit went on to win the ToC that year.

Last year, the Quakers again suffered a heartbreaking one-goal loss to Summit in the Group finals, although Summit did fall in the ToC semis.

Having to fight this hard, the players said, has made their success that much sweeter.

“It’s been so much fun,” said defender Delaney Lawler. “We feel like we’re righting a wrong. We’re doing this for all the girls who came before us. But we also can’t wait for the chance to put our own name in the history books.”

Saturday, Moorestown (22-2) will see a familiar rival in Ridgewood. Moorestown lost to Ridgewood in the ToC finals in 2011, and the two teams meet annually in the regular season. This year, Moorestown beat Ridgewood (22-3), 10-9, in the opening week of the season.

The two teams are widely regarded as the top two in the state. Both have talent all over the field. The Quakers said they’re expecting a war. And they’ll be ready for one.

“Ridgewood is phenomenal,” Lawler sad. “We’ve both [evolved] since that first game.

“We know it’s going to be a battle. And we can’t wait to get started.”