Congratulations to Archbishop Carroll, who defeated Twin Valley 17-5, to win the 2023 PIAA 2A State Championship - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister
Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister & John Knebels
By: John Knebels
STATE COLLEGE, PA – Trying to take notes while tweeting updates during an Archbishop Carroll girls’ lacrosse game mimics a waiter working solo in a packed restaurant.
Game starts . . . blink! Ava Bleckley scores in 51 seconds. Faceoff . . . Blink! Bleckley scores again 2:52 later. A close 3-2 lead with 12:50 remaining in the first half . . . blink, blink, blink!!! Goal, goal, goal, all in a matter of a minute and eight seconds.
You get the picture.
In a dominating performance start to finish Saturday morning, Archbishop Carroll snagged its third consecutive PIAA Class 2A state championship by defeating District 3 champ Twin Valley by a misleadingly close 17-5 in front of a sparse but animated crowd at Penn State University.
Patriots head coach Lorraine Beers, who also mentored Carroll to a state title in 2017, was almost at a loss for words.
“They’re great kids,” said Beers. “Our coaching staff … a big congratulations and thank you to them. We take these girls and we just work with them day in and day out and all year round. That’s how they become the next generation.”
With so much success from which to choose, Beers resisted the urge to compare champions.
“So many different kids each time,” she said. “It’s always special because each kid has her own personality. This team was tenacious. They just had this drive to just fight, fight, fight.”
After Twin Valley moved to within 3-2 with 15 minutes left in the first half, the Patriots corralled complete control.
Bleckley, a senior, scored her third with 12:50 left. Just 57 seconds later, her junior sister, Chloe, found the twine. A startling 11 seconds after that, senior Lainey Straub took a pass from Chloe Bleckley and made it 6-2.
Before the half ended, Chloe Bleckley, sophomore Claire Sexton, and Ava Bleckley would score to send the Patriots to halftime with a comfortable 9-2 edge.
Carroll, as has been its trademark during this three-year avalanche, wasn’t finished.
“Beers always tells us that nothing is going to be given to us,” said Straub. “We have to work our butt off.”
True to form, the Patriots scored just 17 seconds into the second half on a goal by Straub. After a Twin Valley tally, senior Catie McConaghy and Straub – her third to go along with three assists – scored one minute and 59 seconds apart.
Leading 12-4, Carroll’s offense finished with a five-run blitz that included Ava Bleckley’s fifth, Sexton’s second, Chloe Bleckley’s third, McConaghy’s second (Carroll’s seventh goal from eight meters) – and a topper by junior Brooke Hippert.
“It’s very exciting,” said Sexton. “I didn’t get much time on the varsity last year, so it’s really exciting that I’ve gone from (junior varsity) to varsity starting in a state championship game. I was one of the youngest on the field, so it was kind of nerve wracking.”
If the Bleckley sisters appeared not overly sentimental about this being their last scholastic game together – highlighted by a beautiful Chloe-to-Ava execution with 19.5 seconds left in the first half – it’s because the two of them will play together at James Madison University after Chloe graduates next year.
“It’s pretty special,” said Chloe. “I think of Ava as any other teammate. We have a little connection, I guess, on the field. We see each other . . . pass the ball.”
And then score.
“It’s crazy,” said Ava. “It doesn’t even feel like the last game. I was so excited coming into this game. I’m just so happy we came out with a win.”
When it comes to Archbishop Carroll girls’ lacrosse, that’s a common refrain if there ever was one.
(Contact John Knebels at email@example.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)