This year there was a new format in high school girls’ lacrosse with South Jersey teams actually competing in a South Jersey tournament. In years past there was a South field, but it consisted of teams from South and Central Jersey. This year there were four sections – South, Central, North I and North II.
And while no teams from the seven-county South Jersey area won state title, all four of the South Jersey championship reached the state championship game.
The sectional champions were Middle Township in Group I, Haddonfield (Group II), Moorestown (Group III) and Eastern (Group IV). In addition, Rancocas Valley was the Central Jersey Group IV champion. Eastern beat the Red Devils, 11-5 to earn a state championship bid.
Middle Township, Haddonfield and Eastern suffered convincing losses to North Jersey powers in the state final, but it was Moorestown that came the closest to winning and that should not be a surprise.
The Quakers lost to perennial state power and defending Tournament of Champions champ Summit, 9-8 in the state championship game.
This was drastically different from last year’s state championship game when Summit beat Moorestown, 15-6.
There are few times when Moorestown, which finished 20-3 this season, is an underdog, but this year was it. Still the Quakers were on the match until being stopped on a free position shot in the waning seconds.
This is a Moorestown program that has won 21 state titles and coach Deanna Knobloch has built one of the top programs not only statewide but in the country.
Even after last year’s state title loss, Moorestown finished the 2016 season ranked No. 16 nationally by Max Preps.
Prior to the state final, the Quakers were ranked No. 11 nationally by Inside Lacrosse Magazine.
This was a balanced Moorestown team and it showed in the state final where three players had two goals apiece. They were Robin Panzarella, Kacey Knobloch and Penn State recruit Quinn Nicolai. This year Nicolai scored 60 goals, giving her 208 in her four-year career. The other goal scorers were Kayla Frank and Ava Frantz.
Moorestown’s two regular season losses this year were to Bridgewater Raritan, 14-8 and Ridgewood 11-2.
Ridgewood had been unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the New Jersey until losing in the state Group IV semifinal to none other than Bridgewater Raritan, 10-9.
This shows the caliber of competition that Moorestown plays. The Quakers always want to play against the best and facing those two Group IV titans in the regular season no doubt helped Moorestown in its postseason run.
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