RADNOR, PA – As the sun slowly set on Cabrini College’s Dixion Field, the girls’ of the Academy of Notre Dame lacrosse team celebrated with friends and family while the sounds of We Like to Party by the Vengaboys filled the air. For the first time in their school’s history, they were state champions.
“I’m just really proud of this group of girls,” said Notre Dame head coach, Xan Zimatore. “We came a long way and it was an amazing season. It’s not easy to beat a really good team three times in a season and I’m so proud that we came back from behind and play as a team and played gutsy, so I couldn’t be prouder of these girls.”
The Academy of Notre Dame Fighting Irish were crowned 2019 PAISAA champions after defeating Agnes Irwin 12-10 - PSD Photo by James Williamson
Over the past few years, Agnes Irwin has been one of Notre Dame’s toughest obstacles to overcome. The Irish had lost to the Irwins in each of the last three PAISAA semi’s by a combined score of 36-11.
“Since my freshman year and my sophomore year, we’ve lost to Agnes (Irwin) four, five… actually, six times,” said Notre Dame junior, Georgie Gorelick.
Considering the history between these two teams, it’s only fitting that the Irish went into the half down 6-3.
“First half, we played a little bit nervous. This was the first time we’ve been here so that’s expected,” said Zimatore. “I just told them to go out, have fun, and play our game and just enjoy the experience because not everybody gets the chance to play for a state championship. After that, I think we just let loose and had fun.”
Notre Dame came out in the second half on fire rattling off five goals in the opening four minutes in route to a 12-10 victory. The Irish dominated the draw to open the half, creating quality possessions and shot opportunities, while completely taking the ball out of Agnes Iwrin’s hands. At the forefront of this comeback effort was Gorelick, who finished with three goals, including her 100th career goal, and senior Claire Gola, who led both teams with five goals.
“I think, just as an attack, we worked together and looked for one-v-one’s and drew one-v-one’s so we could pass to each other,” said Gola. “It’s not just a one-man game, we’re all together on offense.”
Agnes Irwin would manage to tie the game at nine with 15 minutes remaining in the half, but late goals from Hanna Bodner, Riley Gillin, and Gola put the game away for good. For the graduating seniors, their goal was finally achieved.
“Eleven seniors, from day one of last year when we actually lost to Agnes Irwin in the state tournament, they were determined to get back here,” said Zimatore. “They were really the driving force for us this season, so I contributed this to them.”
When asked about her favorite lasting memories of this season, Gorelick knew it was the friends she had made more so than any one moment.
“Winning today and beating Agnes (Irwin) three times, but especially the senior class,” said Gorelick. “There’s eleven of them and being a freshman on varsity, they've always been like big sisters to a few of us. We’re going to miss them a lot and we’re going to remember them forever.”
The Irish will celebrate for now, but it won’t be long until they must shift their focus to next season. With the loss of eleven seniors looming, Notre Dame believes they’re ready to make another run next season.
“Even though we have a lot of players graduating, we still have a lot of key players and with our coaches and how they coach, they really could be back her next year,” said Gola.
“We’re trying to build a legacy here, so this is just the first step,” said Zimatore. “From the juniors, they’re going to be seniors and they’re going to want to get back here.”