Archbishop Carroll's 2019 PCL Championship Team - PSD Photo by Angelise Stuhl
By: John Knebels
Videos: Angelise Stuhl, John Knebels & Steve Bonetz
PHILADELPHIA – Two months ago should have been a time of distinct merriment for Archbishop Carroll’s girls’ lacrosse team. Like countless would-be celebrations, however, the increasingly insidious coronavirus Covid-19 ruthlessly ruined the party.
Barring a monumental upset, the Patriots would have amassed the program’s 20th consecutive Philadelphia Catholic League championship under the tutelage of coach Lorraine Beers, who inherited the job before the 2000 season. Such an accomplishment seems surreal. So too does a Catholic League winning streak of 240 dating back to Carroll’s last defeat, a 14-13 slugfest against St. Hubert on May 24 in the 2000 PCL final, which gave Bambies coach Kerry Heck her third title in four years.
The Patriots’ insane domination, which will be explored below, began with an undefeated 2001 season that ended with a 21-3 win over Conwell-Egan in the final. Almost two decades, five leap years, 7,100-plus days, three United States presidents, a Philadelphia Phillies World Series, two Villanova University NCAA titles, and a long-at-last Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl later, “The Streak” continues to head north.
“It was so special,” said Julie Dziengelski, nee Smith, a 2001 Carroll grad who played in both the loss to Hubert and the victory over Conwell-Egan before then playing lacrosse at Cabrini University, where she competed under still-active legendary lacrosse and field hockey coach Jackie Neary. “That was a day I’ll never forget. We were on a mission to win it all that season. It really started the season before, so it felt like a long time coming . . . but it was worth the wait.”
Carroll's last PCL championship loss was to St. Hubert on May 24, 2000. - Photo courtesy of Kerry Heck
Dziengelski recalls the team’s post-game “chat” with Beers following the bitter defeat to Hubert at Philadelphia University, which has since been re-named Thomas Jefferson University.
“I still remember it clear as day,” said Dziengelski. “We lost the game at Philly U. Beers sat us all down and slammed on her clipboard. She looked up at the scoreboard and then at all of us and said, ‘That’s never happening again!’ And here we are 20 years later, and she was right; it’s never happened again.”
Since Dziengelski’s last game in a red and white Patriots uniform, the players on the most recent Carroll team had yet to be born. Among them is Fabiana Narda, who graduated last month.
The disappointment of not being able to secure Carroll’s 20th straight PCL title obviously affected this year’s seniors more than the underclassmen who still have an opportunity to corral another championship 10-spot.
“It’s very, very saddening to not be a part of the 20th PCL winning streak,” said Narda. “We made history and it halted just like the entire world did in 2020. As a senior, this is what we looked forward to our whole high school years – that and winning the state championship and bringing her home again.”
Narda was referring to Carroll’s 2017 PIAA Class AAA state championship, a 9-8 nail biter over Springfield-Delco. She described the experience as being “a little nervous at first . . . constantly hyping everyone by screaming to each other on and off the field . . . the best day of my life; a dream come true. Everyone was in tears because of how excited we were.”
Despite the glitz of being crowned the best in the entire state of Pennsylvania, however, capturing the PCL title remains Carroll’s key objective, not only for annual braggers’ rights, but because there would be no PIAA postseason without a Catholic League plaque.
“The Catholic League meant everything to me,” said Narda, who will play at La Salle University next year. “It was such an amazing experience to be a part of that during my high school years, and the history behind the championship. It’s our family tradition to win and bring the trophy home.”
In between the first and most recent Carroll championship, dozens of players ultimately competed in college, including numerous prestigious Division I programs. Too, several have voyaged to coaching and officiating.
Now the coach at Drexel University, Jill DePetris Batcheller graduated from Carroll in 2003 and excelled at Syracuse University. She had the unique experience of comprehending the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, having lost in 2000, then winning three straight titles.
DePetris Batcheller credits much of her coaching success to her younger days at Carroll under Beers.
“Coach Beers' enthusiasm for the game was really so contagious,” said DePetris Batcheller. “It really developed my passion for the game. Coach Beers was constantly taking us to college games and exposing us to the next level of lacrosse, and I've just kept dreaming from there.
“To be a part of a team that was such a family and created winning success has impacted my life so much that ultimately it has led me to want to continue to give that to future generations of lacrosse players.”
Although two decades ago, DePetris Batcheller recalls her nascent days vividly, and also quite fondly.
“In her first year, we went from being average in the league to making it all the way to the Catholic League championship, but lost,” said DePetris Batcheller. “I remember this being the greatest feat for us at the time, but we were hungry for more.
“When we won our first Catholic League championship in 2001, we really dedicated so much time together as a team improving our game as individuals and as a whole. We worked so hard for that first championship, that the ‘streak’ really first started by us was wanting to continue to prove ourselves.”
Teammates on Archbishop Carroll's 2002 PCL championship team - Photo courtesy of Carroll Girls' LAX
DePetris Batcheller tries to instill the same intangibles in her players as fostered by her high school mentor.
“Absolutely, the program is so consistently successful because of Coach Beers, her dedication, and the culture that she created at Carroll,” she said. “She just had a way of making us all love lacrosse, love winning, love being teammates.
“I think every person who has played at Carroll looks back at their experience in the same way – remembering times that they were challenged to their core, proud of what they accomplished while they were there, and lacrosse memories they cannot stop laughing about. Everyone who plays there is just so proud to be a part of the program and the legacy that she created.”
Being able to persevere and thrive despite the improvement of other PCL programs, as well as the sport’s continuous evolution, is a testament to Beers’ ability to teach the fundamentals lacrosse regardless of the changing terrain.
“In the last 20 years, lacrosse has changed tremendously,” said DePetris Batcheller. “Some of the biggest rule changes over the years are creating boundaries around the field, the addition of shot clock, and free movement. Overall, the game has become faster and has grown in popularity nationally and in non-traditional areas.
“Athletes have become amazingly talented with their sticks, and more opportunities are available for athletes to play in college. And there is a women's professional league. It's been really fun to be a part of all of these changes in lacrosse, and I can't wait to see how the game will continue to evolve. One thing is for sure – Coach Beers and Carroll lacrosse will be ready.”
Gabby Capuzzi, Class of 2008, also chose to pursue lacrosse as a vocation. She recently left her post as associate head coach for the United States Naval Academy to inherit the same position at Ohio State University, where she had played and assisted.
Archbishop Carroll's 2006 PCL championship team - Photo courtesy of Carroll Girls' LAX
While reminiscing about high school, Capuzzi said she had never even heard about Carroll lacrosse prior to the beginning of her freshman year. She had attended Carroll girls’ basketball camp and was familiar with that program’s reputation as a Catholic League mainstay.
“For me, my first season (2005) stepping on the lacrosse field under Coach Beers’ leadership, I was aware of the recent successes, but I was hyper focused on learning the game and getting better every day,” said Capuzzi. “Of course, it was a thrilling experience as a freshman to be able to step onto the turf at St. Joe's University and play in the PCL championship game to give Carroll our fifth straight championship. With each year, the streak became more and more heightened with more and more articles in the local papers; this was well before the Twitter era. But this was not a fluke. Carroll girls’ lacrosse was on the map and here to stay, not only in the PCL but in the state and country.
“Fast forward to my senior season (2008) and I was all in. At that point, everyone was very well aware of the streak and our goal was to go for ‘8 in '08.’ As a senior captain, I wanted to do everything possible on the field to put our team in the best position to be successful and keep the streak alive. And we did just that.”
Regarding Beers’ influence, Capuzzi expressed similar sentiments as DePetris Batcheller.
“There is only one person who has stepped on that Carroll field every single day over the last 20 plus years, and that is Coach Beers,” said Capuzzi. “Coach Beers has singlehandedly built the Carroll lacrosse program from the ground up. Coach Beers continues to develop raw athletes into lacrosse players. She focuses on the individual player development along with the overall team chemistry to produce some of the most successful teams in the country.
“Coach Beers has created a culture of competitive excellence. She shows up at every practice with a plan to motivate and push her players to their fullest potential. And every one of Coach Beers’ players knows the standards and expectations that come with being a member of this Carroll lacrosse family.”
Capuzzi vividly recalls her first encounter with a woman who would ultimately provide unlimited lessons on dedication, accountability, and knowledge of the game.
“I'll never forget my freshman fall after walking off the soccer field when I first met Coach Beers,” said Capuzzi. “She was taking a group of players the next morning to the University of Delaware for a playday and offered for me to come. That next day, I picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time and never looked back, all thanks to Coach Beers and the Carroll lacrosse program that she had built.”
Capuzzi turned the impromptu meeting into a career. After playing at Ohio State University, Capuzzi returned to her college alma mater as an assistant coach. After a six-year run at Navy, she is once again a Buckeye.
“Coach Beers is the reason I am coaching today,” said Capuzzi. “She gave me the opportunity to pick up a stick for the first time, which ultimately shaped my college decision and my career choice. I had always admired my basketball and soccer coaches growing up, but it was the manner in which Coach Beers treated her players that had me really buy into her system and coaching style.
“She was tough and didn't sugarcoat anything, but she empowered each one of us and knew how to make us feel confident every time we stepped out on the field. That is what I admire most about Coach Beers. She made a lasting impact on me as a player. She inspired me every day, and that is why I coach today. I hope to have half of the impact on my current players as Coach Beers did on me. Lucky for me, I still get to interact with Coach Beers daily through recruiting calls and going to watch her games. The Carroll lacrosse family roots are strong, and I am forever grateful to be a part of it.”
Archbishop Carroll's 2004 PCL championship team - Photo courtesy of Carroll Girls' LAX
Archbishop Carroll's 2003 PCL championship team - Photo courtesy of Carroll Girls' LAX
The first talk of a “dynasty” was after Carroll defeated Archbishop Wood, 11-6, to win its fifth consecutive title. It was also the beginning of seven straight championship wins at the expense of Wood, which has lost in 10 finals, but the Vikings did give Carroll a rare championship scare in the 2005 final. The only other occasions when Carroll won by fewer than five goals was a 12-8 win over Conwell-Egan in the 2003 final.
Class of 2005 alum Jessica Lake, nee Brophy, summarized what just about every Carroll has said for the past umpteen years.
“The streak was so important,” said Lake, who played at James Madison University. “Winning the non-league games was important, too, as we always wanted to be one of the best teams in the area.But no one wanted to be the team to end the streak.”
Five years later, as the 2010 season approached, Carroll players were well indoctrinated in what was at stake. It had already become commonplace to see former players attend Carroll games with the expectation that the streak would turn into double digits.
But Catholic League success wasn’t the only goal, according to Carroll 2010 alumna Aimee Clark, nee Gennaro. Before becoming a current high school lacrosse referee in Hampton Roads, Va., Clark played at the Naval Academy.
“That PCL streak was always exciting to carry on, but I think some of the local rivalries were more important to us back in the day,” said Clark. “The (2009) year was the first season we were able to compete for the PIAA championship, and we all wanted to be part of that history. Although I will say that beating Cardinal O’Hara is always a great feeling in any sport at any time.”
Clark applauds the help of Carroll alumni and marvels at Beers’ ability to simplify the game.
“The program is consistently so successful because Coach Beers has so many former players that take the time to give back to the program,” said Clark. “We all admired the players that came before us who came back to coach. Shout out to the DePetris family for teaching generations of Carroll lacrosse players how to catch and throw since the early 2000s.
“Coach Beers also had a knack for finding athletes from other sports and bringing them into the lacrosse fold. The midfield in any given year was made up of girls who used to play basketball or soccer and made the switch to lacrosse. If you could run, Coach Beers and her staff could teach you the rest.”
Archbishop Carroll's head coach, Lorraine Beers, holds the Patriot's 2010 PCL championship plaque - Photo courtesy of Carroll Girls' LAX
Teammates on Archbishop Carroll's 2011 PCL championship team - Photo courtesy of Carroll Girls' LAX
Clark marvels at how lacrosse has transformed from a sometimes difficult to-watch spectacle to an earnest athletic event.
“The game has become much faster and exciting to watch,” said Clark. “I really feel for all the parents who had to stand around along Matsonford Road and watch our games a decade ago – it must have been painful.
“Now, thanks to free movement and the shot clock at the college level, the game is quicker and provides for more excitement. The game is probably safer, too. I recall witnessing and being part of a few head-on collisions in the draw circle in high school. Now, there are only three players per team on/in the draw circle. Probably a smart move.”
In 2015, “The Streak” turned the final corner en route to 20 straight. Then a sophomore, 2017 grad Sammy Swart would win two more titles and finish her stellar scholastic career by scoring three goals – including the final two – in the state championship triumph. She now plays at Syracuse University.
“We are like a family just like how it was at Carroll,” said Swart. “Our program wasn’t just about lacrosse. It was about creating a family environment so that everyone was comfortable. I am super blessed to be a part all.
“The best thing I learned from Coach Beers and the program was that there’s always something more to learn about the game of lacrosse and life. You never stop learning. That is why I loved playing for Coach Beers, I looked forward to practices and games because she always had something new to teach us.”
If a Carroll player is interested in accruing gaudy individual statistics, she quickly discovers that the only important stat is the one in the win column. The objective of scoring copious goals or dishing out plentiful assists isn’t exactly frowned upon, it’s just not a priority.
Beers has never wavered on her team-first philosophy. In fact, she describes herself as “anti-stat.”
“I’m against collecting big season numbers because it makes coaches leave star players in weak games to rack up silly numbers that in the end mean nothing,” said Beers. “If you score, save, or assist a bunch against a state champ, then okay, those stats are credible, but otherwise, I am not a fan.”
Her players appreciate that simplified approach.
“Coach Beers made it clear very early on that personal statistics were not going to be a priority for us as a team,” said Clark. “So for those of us who had never touched a lacrosse stick before high school, that was just the norm.
“I do remember, though, that she used to keep track of ‘bobbles’ – aka how many times we nearly dropped the ball off of a draw control. She was trying to get us to focus on cleaning up our level of play and refining our skill set. We had so many athletes, and she helped us turn the corner to become lacrosse players.”
“Anti-stat” benefited Swart as she reached the next level.
“Personally, it was not hard,” said Swart. “I think the way Coach Beers ran her show was the right way. She always knows what’s she’s doing and always knows what’s best for her players. Being one of the top scorers at Syracuse, I think it’s about just playing and not worrying about stats, and that’s what I loved most about Carroll. It’s about playing and being out there with your teammates; always playing your best, just being focused on the game and not everything around it. Enjoy the game, time flies by.”
When she looks back at what has turned out to be a literal dynasty, Beers doesn’t become overly sentimental, and it is obvious that she isn’t impressed with her own resume.
Beers clearly recalls seeing an advertisement about a lacrosse coaching job at Carroll in a local newspaper back in 2000. Her daughters Kate and Ali already involved with youth sports, Beers applied and was basically offered the job right away.
By that point Cardinal O’Hara (1995, 1996), St. Hubert (1997, 1998), and Archbishop Prendergast (1999) had already won championships in a Catholic League that was just coming out of its infancy stage. Carroll had lost to Hubert, 12-4, in the 1997 final.
“There have always been great teams and players in the PCL,” said Beers. “In 2000, St. Hubert’s was the dominant team led by an amazing athlete named Kristen Teklinsky. She went on to play field hockey at St Joe’s on scholarship. Many of the early PCL teams had girls that went on to play field hockey in college. Conwell Egan had Lisa Leon, who went on to play lacrosse at North Carolina.
“Archbishop Wood had a run of great teams and we had very close games those years when Cait McCartney (University of Delaware) and Alyssa Andress (North Carolina) played for them.”
After Carroll went undefeated in 2001 and beat Conwell-Egan in the final, no one could ever realize what had begun.
That includes Beers.
“I’m not sure there was an ‘aha’ moment when I ever realized we could become so dominant,” said Beers. “The focus for us has always been to take it one game at a time. I did realize we had athletes that could play Division I lacrosse in college early on in 2001/02. Paige Andrews (Class of 2002) had a dream to play lacrosse at Georgetown and so that was a great inspiration for me – to help her achieve that goal. In order to do that, it made sense to me that all of our girls at Carroll would train and play at the highest level, in the hope that they would secure the best scholarships available for college. So, our first real graduating class was 2002. I had three years to train with those girls. We had graduates go play at Georgetown, Duke, Monmouth, and Lafayette. That was immediately followed by Syracuse, Notre Dame, Loyola, Delaware, St Joe’s, LaSalle, James Madison . . . it just took off with a life of its own.”
Although the Patriots overwhelmed the PCL, some downplayed their success because the year-long competition of other suburban teams was much more of a challenge. In their first venture into the PIAA in 2009, Carroll defeated West Chester’s Bayard Rustin, 18-13.
However, Beers remembers the satisfaction of several upsets along the way that ultimately resulted in the aforementioned 2017 state title victory.
“Actually, I think we reached our status as a top program far earlier than 2017,” said Beers. “Beating Radnor for the first time in 2006 at Radnor really put us on the map, in my opinion. Meg Brennan scored her only goal of the day with less than a second left in regulation for us to win, 8-7. That was a big win for us and proved that we could beat anybody.
“Of course, winning the 2017 state title was an incredible experience and such a team effort, with amazing goalie play by Maddie Ferraioli.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the Catholic League teams will need to bring a little something special if they expect to sever “The Streak.” They won’t get any help from Carroll’s players, who never become bored with winning.
The Patriots seem to save their best effort for the final. In their 19 PCL titles, the Patriots have outscored their opponents by 327-85 for an average victory of 17-4. They have won by double figures 14 times.
“We are always confident before games,” said Narda. “We try to all put on a game face to get us in a hype mood so that we will win. We talk about our PCL winning streak, but we still go into every single game with a hard-working mindset.
“We don’t take anything for granted. That PCL championship makes us work even harder because we always want another one. We came close to losing plenty of times, but we always push through with team talks and timeouts.”
Archbishop Carroll Championship Run
2001 – Archbishop Carroll 21, Conwell-Egan 3
2002- Archbishop Carroll 16, Cardinal O’Hara 2
2003- Archbishop Carroll 12, Conwell-Egan 8
2004- Archbishop Carroll 19, St. Hubert 4
2005- Archbishop Carroll 11, Archbishop Wood 6
2006- Archbishop Carroll 19, Archbishop Wood 4
2007- Archbishop Carroll 16, Archbishop Wood 3
2008 – Archbishop Carroll 17, Archbishop Wood 4
2009 – Archbishop Carroll 16, Archbishop Wood 8
2010 – Archbishop Carroll 13, Archbishop Wood 6
2011 – Archbishop Carroll 17, Archbishop Wood 5
2012 – Archbishop Carroll 19, Cardinal O’Hara 3
2013 – Archbishop Carroll 20, Cardinal O’Hara 4
2014 – Archbishop Carroll 21, Archbishop Wood 5
2015 – Archbishop Carroll 11, Archbishop Wood 4
2016 – Archbishop Carroll 21, Archbishop Wood 4
2017 – Archbishop Carroll 20, Cardinal O’Hara 3
2018 – Archbishop Carroll 18, Cardinal O’Hara 3
2019 – Archbishop Carroll 20, Cardinal O’Hara 6
2020 – Season cancelled because of COVID-19 pandemic
(Contact John Knebels at email@example.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)