Moorestown girls' lacrosse advances to Group 3 state final

Moorestown's Robin Panzarella (right) beats Notre Dame goalkeeper Nicole Burney to put Moorestown ahead, 11-2.

TOMS RIVER - For some programs, these games are milestones - historic, banner-worthy moments.

For the Moorestown girls' lacrosse team, they feel more like tune-ups.

After a hot start to the season, Robin Panzarella entered Tuesday night in a bit of a slump.

She's been staying after practice working on her shots - anything she can do to prime herself for the Quakers' run at a Tournament of Champions title.

Tuesday night was her chance to put that hard work on display.

She netted a team-high five goals as Moorestown eased past Notre Dame, a 15-4 win in the Group 3 state semifinals at Toms River North.

More than anything, this was a chance for Panzarella - a junior attacker - to prove to herself that she's ready for a lead postseason role for the most decorated girls' lacrosse program in state history.

Ultimately, that's what this game was for the Quakers: One last chance to build confidence for a time when they'll need it most.

"I think this win does show that we do have the confidence going forward, that we know how to pull out a big win," Panzarella said. "At this time of year, the mental part of the game is just as important as the skill part of it."

Kacey Knobloch chipped in four goals for Moorestown and Kayla Frank added two.

Moorestown moves on to a rematch with Summit for the state championship Saturday.

Last season, Moorestown - a program with 21 overall New Jersey state titles, including 14 since 2000 - suffered a rare state championship game loss to Summit.

"Mentally, absolutely," Quakers coach Deanna Knobloch said when asked if her team was ready for the rematch. "I think we still have a few things we need to tweak by Saturday, but I'm very happy with the way we're playing.

"We just have to minimize those mistakes."

Tuesday, by their lofty expectations, the Quakers (20-2) actually started the game slow.

Possession was roughly even during the early parts of the game. And Moorestown, which beat Notre Dame, 19-1, in the regular season, led by just 6-2 at halftime.

"Credit Notre Dame. They came out on fire and it caused us to not possess the ball," Knobloch said. "Second half, we definitely turned it around. We played great defense all over the field and were able to possess the ball and finish our shots."

Coach Bryan Fisher of Notre Dame (15-6) said he was proud of his team's performance against such an established program.

But in the end, Moorestown is Moorestown.

"They're in this game every year," he said. "But we were able to push them today - and I'm proud of our effort.

"This was a big game for us, it's a new level for our program. Moorestown is just a tremendous program."

Notre Dame 2 2 - 4

Moorestown 6 9 - 15

Goals: ND- Danielle Losier 2, Maddie Rizzuto, Lauren Kiszely; M- Emily Culbertson, Kacey Knobloch 4, Ashley Nutt, Robin Panzarella 5, Kayla Frank 2, Ava Frantz, Quinn Nicolai.