Hatboro-Horsham, led by its five four-year starters and captains, captured the SOL Continental Conference crown.
They lived with the ‘Fab Five’ label, and Hatboro-Horsham’s five four-year starters could have wilted under the pressure that goes hand-in-hand with that kind of billing.
They could have, but they didn’t.
Led by their five senior captains – Nicole Beck, Lizzy Carr, Cortnee Daley, Caroline Hagan and Julie McKay, the Hatters completed what they set out to do since they stepped onto the field this spring when they captured sole possession of the SOL Continental Conference crown. If there was pressure, the seniors didn’t let it show as they rolled to a perfect 12-0 record in conference play.
“It was good because we all had each other, so I don’t think it was that nerveracking,” Hagan said. “I think as a team we were more worried about beating North Penn because we had beaten everyone else in the league in the past.”
The Hatters took care of that little matter when they edged the three-time defending champion Maidens on their home turf 10-9.
“North Penn was a big win,” Daley said. “We were all really nervous. We had to get over that big hump of just beating them.
“It showed in our second game that we composed ourselves, and we beat them the way we should have the first time.”
In the second go-round between the two rivals, the Hatters jumped out to an 8-0 lead on their way to a 12-7 win that all but ensured Hatboro-Horsham the conference title.
“This is the first time we’ve won the league,” McKay said. “This is the first time we have beaten North Penn twice in a season.
“The first time we won was more of an exciting game because it was so close. When we won the second time, I expected to win. We had to win – there was no other option.”
While winning the title was sweet, winning it together made it that much better.
“Just being able to succeed the way we have – these are all my best friends,” McKay said. “It’s just nice to be able to take our friendship off the field onto the field and succeed.”
This year’s senior class – which includes Daley, Hagan, Beck, McKay, Carr, Laura Cresta and Lauren Sarnese – is the undisputed backbone of this year’s championship squad. While the team’s five captains have been there since the beginning, Cresta and Sarnese - a gifted vocalist who has sung the National Anthem before games - have fit in nicely as well.
“I don’t think Laura has scored four goals this season, but the senior girls will pass to her,” coach Duncan Swezey said of Cresta, a starter on the line. “The seniors have a connection, and they will move the ball together. Even though Laura is not a scorer, she transitions the ball with that group. As a team, they want her on the line.
“I said to them, ‘You guys control your own destiny. What do you want to do?’ They said, ‘She just fits on the cog.’ It’s like a transmission, and she’s one of the teeth of the transmission that makes everything go smoothly.”
While Cresta and Sarnese contribute in supporting roles, the five senior captains are the undisputed stars. Any one of them, according to Swezey, is capable of scoring five to seven goals in a game, and it is their connections that set this group apart.
“As a group, they’re very tight with how they pass and how they play,” Swezey said. “They give other coaches fits. One of the (opposing) coaches said to me, ‘It’s just amazing that even in tight quarters they’re passing and running at full speed,’ and she couldn’t believe some of the passes.
“That’s flat out playing with your partner. They know what passes each one can catch, they know where they like the ball, and they’re very efficient.”
Although the players acknowledged that beating North Penn was on their bucket lists, ask them what they will remember most about their high school playing days, and that win doesn’t enter the conversation.
“I’m definitely going to remember all the bonding trips we’ve been on – Disney World and the Swezey’s lake house,” Carr said. “Being together so long on and off the field, I think it helps us a lot because we work so well together.”
The lone losses in an otherwise perfect season for the Hatters came during a three-day span that saw them fall to Notre Dame (16-13) and then dropped a non-league game to SOL rival Council Rock North (14-13).
“We had the potential to win both of those games,” Hagan said. “It was good to have the competition.”
“I think in a way it was bittersweet because it was a wake-up call,” Beck added. “Obviously, no one likes to lose, but at the same time, we started panicking when we were down in those games because we didn’t know what it was like to be down. I’m glad we saw what happened in a game that wasn’t in the playoffs.
“Now if we get down in a playoff game, we can keep our composure and know we can come back. We hadn’t really seen that kind of competition to that point.”
The second season is about to begin for the Hatters, who are the 11th seeded entering the District One Tournament.
“We still have a lot of pressure on us because people are expecting us to go really far,” Beck said. “Sometimes it’s hard to not get nervous, but like Caroline said, we have each other.
“We got through our first goal, which was winning the league and beating North Penn twice. Now we have to take it one step at a time.”
Hatboro-Horsham opens district play on Tuesday against 22nd-seeded Unionville.
“It’s great they won the league, and it’s great they have a good record, but I told the girls last week that the season has just started,” Swezey said.