Both the Wissahickon boys and girls lacrosse teams captured SOL American Conference titles this season. Photos provided courtesy of Kim Supko Photography. (Youth photo provided by Wissahickon boy’s lacrosse. Article sponsored by Wissahickon lacrosse.)
The Wissahickon lacrosse teams made history this spring
It is the first time ever that both the boys and girls programs captured conference titles in the same year. One was expected, the other – not so much, but there’s no mistaking it is a point of pride for the Wissahickon community.
Wissahickon Boys’ Lacrosse: A Team Whose Time has Arrived
They’ve been waiting for this year.
Actually, they were waiting for last year after settling for a tri-championship with Springfield Township and Upper Dublin in 2019, but last year never happened. The COVID-19 pandemic was the winner in a spring that saw all sports cancelled.
“I think we were all disappointed with that because we thought we were the better team,” senior captain EJ Schreiner said of the 2019 tri-championship. “We had beaten Springfield by a pretty good amount that year, and then it was just us and Upper Dublin we thought.
“Then we lost to Upper Dublin in overtime. That’s always a big rivalry game. That was sad to see because we beat Springfield, they beat Upper Dublin and Upper Dublin beat us. I kind of thought we got robbed.”
Last year’s team would have featured a senior-led defense that left some big shoes to fill this season.
“We had Jake Reichard, who is at Ursinus right now, and Ryan Murphy, who’s at Drexel, and they were two of our main defenders who would have done really good last year,” senior captain Jackson Intrieri said. “They made our defense a lot better than it was in years past.
“We had Harrison Williams. We had Michael Licata and one or two other kids so maybe five or six that missed their whole season, which was pretty unfortunate. We have four or five new starters. Our whole defense is pretty much new to the varsity scene. We have three juniors Joey Connelly, Quinn Fonash and Jake Licata along with Ethan Glass, who’s a senior. The four of them have done a really good job this year along with Kyle Lehman, who missed his freshman year and plays attack with me.”
Many of the players have been together since they were youngsters in the youth program. Schreiner laughs when he recalls those early years.
“There was B3, B2 and B1 – B1 was the best team, and me, (Matt) Fritz and Brody (Myers) were on B2, which was the middle team,” Schreiner said. “We always joke about that. We were on the middle team, but we’re three of the captains now.
“Honestly, I didn’t start getting into lacrosse until seventh and eight grade, and that was before then, so I wasn’t that upset about it, but I know Matt and Brody were. I think we can see how we got so much better over the years.”
For the seniors, this is the season they’ve been pointing to since they were playing for championships together in WissLax and middle school.
“We’ve been really looking forward to this year and last year for our entire way up through the youth program, middle school and high school,” Myers said. “We’ve been looking forward to this and our hopeful run to states this year.”
The Trojans are coming down the homestretch of a remarkable season that included a signature win over District One power Garnet Valley (10-7). They will take with them a whole lot more than the memories of big wins and historic accomplishments.
“Just the bonds our team has made - I can definitely say my closest friends are on this team,” Myers said. “Our friend group has been based off of our lacrosse team. Everybody on the team is really friendly with each other. Nobody has problems. We don’t really have to worry about that as captains, which is nice. It makes playing easier because we can trust each other on the field, so we just have fun with it.”
“You can’t really find a closer team than us in the whole state,” Fritz added. “It’s much more than all the wins and success we’ve had on the field, but everything off the field – that’s everything we’re going to remember. Grabbing food after wins, all the jokes. I’m best friends with almost every single person on the team. It’s like a brotherhood we have, and it’s been really cool.
“That (WissLax) township team we had would go against some of the schools that lost kids to private schools, but this main group – we’ve stuck together. We’ve been this close for that long. It’s been a lot of fun seeing the success that we’re having this year because it’s all really just paying off. We’re the seventh seed entering districts, and we honestly feel like we’re much better than that, so now we feel we have something to prove. We’re really looking forward to the upcoming district playoffs and hopefully the state playoffs.”
What has been the key to this year’s success?
Jackson Intrieri: “Even before the season – even in middle school, we started to realize how good we could really be. In seventh and eight grades in middle school, we honestly didn’t lose a lot of games. I think in middle school for our actual school team, we only lost one game in two years. In seventh and eighth grade for Wiss Lax, our township team, we made it to the championship. I think we lost both of them, but regardless, we still made it there, and we were thinking – ‘Once we get to high school, once we get a little bigger and stronger – we can obviously give teams a run for their money in District One,’ and I think we proved that this year.”
Brody Myers: “Before the season, we had a play day and we played La Salle, and they have historically been a really good team. We beat them by one goal in a really hard fought game. The Garnet Valley win, which was a turning point in our regular season, gave us the confidence we can beat any team out there. We did have two tough losses to Conestoga and Springfield Delco (both by one goal), but we’ve never been a team that’s going to back down to somebody who’s a powerhouse. I think the La Salle game beforehand showed us that.”
Matt Fritz: “I think we just had a lot of confidence this season. We’ve dreamed of last season, and obviously that was cancelled, but we’ve been dreaming about this season for a while now. We know what we have. We have all the pieces to the puzzle when we look at it, really every single position. It’s been really cool because one of the things we came into this year was thinking maybe our defense was not as strong and that was one of the positions we lacked, and it’s been really cool to see everybody step up on defense because they’ve just done a phenomenal job all season as well as everybody else. We just have a lot of confidence because we’ve been playing together for so long also.
“We had two losses before the Garnet Valley win to Conestoga and Springfield-Delco by one goal, so we went in thinking the third time’s the charm. When you look at it, the Central League powers are competing for the state championship almost every year basically. So we knew we had another chance. I think we all went into that game really confident and just playing our style because nobody really expected us to win. That was a huge step in the right direction for our program because it really showed not only to everybody else who we were, but it gave us the belief we could hang with all these teams. We want to be mentioned in the same boat as them.”
EJ Schreiner: “We’ve all been together for so long, and we know what each other does. The attack clicks, the middies click, the defense clicks – everyone clicks, so we’re playing off one another. We know our strengths. Our attack is definitely our strong point for offense, and the middies – we get the ball to them and let them do their thing. It’s been a really fun season, and we’re putting up a lot of goals against the teams in our league. We’ve been dominant.”
Coach Matt Conway: "I think what makes this group special is that they've been playing with each other for seemingly forever now. Most kids, including all the seniors, played together at the youth league level starting in sixth grade. My assistant coaches, Steve Lehman and Rob Intrieri, both coached those Wisslax teams that had a ton of success, and it's carried over to high school."
On Thursday, Wissahickon’s journey into the District One 3A playoffs begins when the seventh-seeded Trojans will host 10th-seeded Downingtown East at 7 p.m.
Wissahickon Girls’ Lacrosse: A Season of Exceeded Expectations
The Wisssahickon girls’ lacrosse team took the field 17 times during the regular season, and 17 times they have walked off the field winners.
“We came into this season kind of unknown because we haven’t seen a lot of people play,” senior captain Quinn Gaffey said. “No one really came in with expectations which also helped us do better than we projected our season.”
The seniors have been playing together since seventh grade, some much longer. Of the team’s four captains – Gaffey, Sophia Chiodo Ortiz, Haley Reed and Abby DeGroat, three of them have been together since elementary school. They were later joined by Gaffey – who moved to the area from New Jersey.
“With us, it was always friendship first and teammates second,” Chiodo Ortiz said. “We’ve always been the best of friends.”
“We’ve also grown up playing every sport together like soccer, basketball, lacrosse so that’s helped us,” Reed said. “We’ve always been friends off the field and on the field, but it wasn’t until middle school and freshman year that the four of us started to really click in one sport of lacrosse.”
Unlike their counterparts on the boys’ team, they didn’t grow up with lofty expectations.
“Middle school we put up a fight against teams like Upper Dublin, but we were never really that good in middle school,” Chiodo Ortiz said. “But when it came to Wiss Lax, we were pretty good because we had a bunch of private school girls.
“We knew we were losing all of them when we got to high school, so we never really thought we would be a team like we are now.”
When they were freshmen, the Trojans were 6-3 in conference play (13-6 overall) and in a four-way tie for second place behind an Abington squad that was undefeated in conference play. The following year the Trojans were 4-5 in conference play (6-12 overall).
“Our freshman year our season progressively got stronger,” Gaffey said. “Our team was young - all of our starters were underclassmen, we had no seniors.
“Junior year we were projected to be decent, but we knew that (on other teams) the Class of 2020 had a lot of good girls around in our area.”
Their junior season never happened, cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone normally peaks junior year,” Chiodo Ortiz said. “They become the upperclassmen and they start to rule the field more, so that was definitely hard for our class. We played with the seniors in the Class of 2020 since seventh grade, and we have a lot of close friends, so it was hard seeing them go.
“We had a really strong defender, Lauren Donofrio who plays at George Mason, and some key feeders on attack. This year coming in we didn’t know how we were going to work since we lost all those key players. When it came around to Senior Night, I think we all appreciated it because the girls last year didn’t get a Senior Night. They had eight-plus years of playing lacrosse, and they didn’t really end with the bang you want.”
With many students still virtual, lacrosse has been a welcome diversion, and senioritis is not an issue.
“For me personally, since it’s after school, it’s really easy to just devote the two hours to lacrosse and then think about everything else after practice,” DeGroat said. “In the spring, lacrosse is obviously a priority, so we’re trying to put that first over everything else.
“Since we don’t get to go to school and see people, I think it’s really important that we actually get to see our friends at some point during the day.”
“I think it serves as a distraction, a good distraction,” Chiodo Ortiz said. “That’s our time away from our computers that we’re sitting at all day so it’s a nice escape from all the school and stuff. We look forward to it, not having to do anything else during that time but play lacrosse.”
Added Reed, “Especially now that we’re later into the season, we know that we have things to work on and we know we need to take it seriously, but we’re also at the point where we’re so close with everyone, and it’s a good distraction to come and see your friends and talk at the water breaks and have fun playing lacrosse with the people we enjoy being with.”
It didn’t take long for the players to realize they might be onto something special this season.
“After spring break time, we were 4-0 at the time, and we had beaten Council Rock South, CB East and CB South, which are normally a powerhouse,” Chiodo Ortiz said. “I think then we realized – we have a bunch of good players. We all work together to make other players shine. We have 12 great players on the field.”
Coach Jamie Kane has not been surprised by the Trojans’ progression.
I’ve always known they were good yet they’ve gotten even better as they’ve matured,” the Trojans’ coach said. “They love to push each other to get better and they’re really competitive, always playing to the whistle and never going down without a fight.
“The one thing about this team is they play as a team, so if a team wants to shut down Emma Baker, that won’t stop Wissahickon from winning because we have players like Abby DeGroat, Sophia Chiodo Ortiz, Quinn Gaffey, Nora Ryan, Chloe Lee – all able to score. Emma, no doubt, is an unstoppable scoring threat, but when man marked or double or triple teamed we know she can hit Lexi Hobson with a perfect feed in the middle of the 8m or Abby who can use her height and speed to get open or really any of these girls. They work together, they move the ball and they make their cuts with speed and that’s hard to stop.”
It was a pair of signature wins over conference powers Abington (13-5) and Upper Dublin (15-8) that confirmed the Trojans were the new American Conference powerhouse.
“Obviously, we’re going to have memories of practice and games and everything and those will last a lifetime, but I think what really stands out in all the captains’ minds is beating Abington and Upper Dublin this year,” Chiodo Ortiz said. “This was our first time beating both of those teams in at least five years. It was a really big turning point especially playing Abington and Upper Dublin all these years through Wiss Lax and middle school. I’m gong to remember that the rest of my life.”
“Another big thing for us is the accomplishment of going undefeated and having all that because it was not expected for our season,” Gaffey said. “It’s not like we came in as a powerhouse team – ‘Watch out for Wisshiackon.’ We kind of made our name throughout the season.
“I work with girls from other schools, and they’re like ‘We don’t want to play you,’ which is a huge statement to be made and not expected from Wissahickon. I think that’s the biggest standout. The record we have was unexpected which also made it more special. It’s not like we had an expectation to live up to and then succeeded in it. We made it for ourselves and paved the way for our team.”
“As the season progressed, we started to realize how good we are,” DeGroat said. “When we went into the season we were like, ‘Oh, we might be pretty decent,’ but me personally, I didn’t think we would be nearly as good as we are now, and I think a lot of that is the draw this year and our attack has been really strong, and that’s been helping along in this season, and I hope as we face harder competition it still works as well.”
The sixth-seeded Trojans will host 11th-seeded Great Valley on Thursday at 5 p.m.