Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
The PIAA state playoffs begin this weekend, with more than 70 teams from the Philadelphia area still in the hunt for state trophies. All week long, CoBL’s staff will be taking a look at the teams to watch — local and not — who can compete for titles in all six boys and all six girls’ brackets.
Ten of the 12 District 1 teams and all three of the District 12 teams in the girls Class 6A bracket are making their return to the state tournament. Here’s a preview of the Class 6A girls teams ranked by how likely they are to make a deep run, from least likely to most likely:
The Lancers lost by 40 in last season’s PIAA opener and will hope to improve on that result against Springfield-Delco. Senior captain Kylie Frey (12.6 ppg) has some help this season with sophomore Sofia Meer (10.2 ppg), junior Jayda Wright (9.3 ppg) and co-captain Sara Hogan (8.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.1 spg) all stepping up their games as well this season.
Garnet Valley and sophomore guard Kylie Mulholland, above, face undefeated Cedar Cliff in the first round. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Garnet Valley (1-12)
Star sophomores Haylie Adamski (16.1 ppg) and Kylie Mulholland (10.7 ppg) helped lead the way for this Jags team to get back to the state playoffs. Senior Mia Zebley, junior Jordan Daubenberger and sophomore Savannah Saunders are a few others who have led the charge. Undefeated District 3 champion Cedar Cliff (26-0), a state semifinalist last season, provides an enormous obstacle in Garnet’s path to advance.
Seniors Riley Angstadt and Maddie Baughan have guided the Longhorns to a historic season alongside juniors Milana Amoss and Savannah Lang and sophomores like Shannon Megill and Elle Johnson. One of the two teams that wasn’t in the District 1 tournament a season ago, Unionville will have to put a pretty special performance together as it opens against District 11 champion Easton (27-1).
The Pioneers will have their hands full in their opener with O’Hara, but don’t sleep on this group, making its first PIAA appearance since 2016. Junior guard Marisa Francione sets the tone alongside classmates Bella and Katrina Valencia. Sophomore 6-1 forward Janie Preston could provide some matchup problems and freshman guard Ryann Jennings adds some length and range. She’s had a few big postgame games already.
Upper Dublin (1-6)
The Cardinals are part of the reason the reigning state champs won’t have a chance to defend their state crown, knocking off PW in the District 1 second round before an overtime loss to Pennsbury in the district quarters. Last season, Spring-Ford and Perk Valley had young cores make runs to the PIAA quarters. Led by junior Amy Ngo and freshmen Megan Ngo and 5-11 wing Colleen Besachio, UD hopes it can create similar magic with its young core this season.
Pennsbury and junior Sofia Vitucci, above, enter the state tournament after a run to the district semis. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The Falcons made somewhat of a surprise run to the District 1 semis as an 11-seed before running into the buzzsaw that is Haverford and falling to Spring-Ford in the 3rd/4th place game. As highlighted by district wins over Abington and Upper Dublin and throughout the season though, Pennsbury is tough to play against. Junior guard Sofita Vitucci will have the chance to showcase her game at the state level along with the likes of junior 5-10 forward Layla Matthias, junior 5-9 wing Danielle Sherman, freshman forward Emily Panaro, senior guard/wing Neveah Dash, junior Daniella MacDonald and senior Neve Davis. The Falcons have a winnable game against Nazareth (14-12) to open with a tough challenge against District 7 runner-up Upper St. Clair and District 10 champ McDowell (19-6) to follow if they get by.
Springfield Delco (1-8)
The Cougars advanced to the quarterfinals in the Class 5A bracket a season ago and get their shot in the 6A field this season. Springfield lost state seeding games to Upper Dublin and Souderton, but the Cougars got the easiest first-round draw with District 12 runner-up Central. Potential second-round matchup Abington has shown that while it's certainly talented it is vulnerable. Kaitlyn Kearney, a Widener, is part of an athletic bunch that includes two D1 lax players in Mia Valerio (Richmond lacrosse) and Lexi Aaron (Towson lacrosse). Wing forward Anabel Kreydt, wing Taylor Hunyet and guard Sophia Ward are all seniors in the rotation as well.
Neshaminy certainly has some firepower with 5-11 junior Reese Zemitis a lethal shooter and scorer leading the charge along with 5-7 guard Lola Ibarrondo and 5-9 guard/wing Taylor Gurysh, a Kutztown commit. Tha trio, or some part of it, is typically getting most of Neshaminy’s buckets. When they are all on, it’s a tough offense to stop. Sophomore guard Alena Cofield is a budding talent as well, while senior guards Jess Purdy and Lindsay Little can knock down shots. Neshaminy got a tough draw in the first round with Carroll last season and matches up with the Patriots in the first round again this season. After a lopsided loss last season, this year’s matchup with the PCL power should be a little more even but with PV potentially looming in the next round, which just beat Neshaminy 48-27, it’s hard to foresee it putting together a run — though not impossible.
Archbishop Carroll (12-3)
Carroll sat just below the upper echelon of the Catholic League this season behind O’Hara, LC and Wood. The Patriots (11-11) were another PCL semifinalist, certainly capable of giving most teams a tough game with their gritty defense. Senior 6-foot wing Taylor Wilson, an Army commit, has a polished inside game and can also knock down threes. Junior 5-10 guard Brooke Wilson is the team’s other top scorer, a very good shooter who can beat the defense off the bounce as well. A first-round matchup with Neshaminy should be a fun one and the Patriots could give PV or Red Lion a game in the second round if they get past that one.
Souderton and Northwestern commit Casey Harter, above, face District 11 champion Easton in the first round. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Souderton came into this season with everyone back from a District 1 semifinalist but Spring-Ford locked it down in the district quarters, the second season in a row the Rams bounced it in the district tourney. Senior guard Casey Harter, a Northwestern recruit, and company were bounced in the first round of states last season but have a team capable of making some noise. The path does not look like an easy one with 6-foot NJIT recruit Mackenzie Wright-Rawls and District 3 runner-up standing in the way in the first round and District 11 champ Easton, which knocked off Souderton in the first round last season, a potential second-round opponent. Still Harter, senior forwards Teya Mcconnaha, Erin Bohmueller and Mikayla Mcgillian and junior guard Brooke Fenchel have a defense that can slow down almost anyone if they can find a way to generate offense.
After getting upset in their District 1 opener, the Ghosts rallied in the playback bracket to knock off league rival PW, keeping the reigning state champs out of the state bracket and booking their own trip. Abington followed with double-digit wins over Garnet Valley and Unionville to enter the state tournament with some momentum. Despite the early district exit, Abington has the talent for a deep state run with UMass-Lowell recruit Cire Worley, a versatile 6-foot forward leading the way. There isn’t much size around her, but senior guard Abril Bowser (5-3) and sophomore guard Maya Johnson (5-3) are threats who can score the ball from beyond the arc or beat their man. Juniors Piper McGinley (5-7) and Jordyn Reynolds (5-7) are two others in the top of the Ghosts’ rotation, McGinley more of a defensive minded player while Reynolds often providing an offensive spark. Abington also gets a favorable draw in District 2 champion Wyoming Valley West and may be favored in their second game if they get by with Springfield-Delco or Central looming.
Very few teams in the state have more postseason experience than the Rams who have almost the same rotation as the squad that went to the PIAA quarters last season and still have holdovers from the 2021 state runner-up team. Those holdovers are juniors Anna Azzara (15.2 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.7 spg) and Mac Pettinelli (9.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 6.7 rpg). Junior 5-11 sharpshooter Katie Tiffan (8.8 ppg), senior 6-2 forward Meg Robbins (7.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and junior Siena Miller all have state playoff experience as well from last season. The Rams nearly took down Perk Valley in the district semis before letting a fourth-quarter lead slip away. Spring-Ford’s defense will make sure it can hang with anybody, opening with District 3 four seed Dallastown and either O’Hara or ‘Stoga in the second round. If the Rams can find another offensive gear, they could be very, very dangerous.
O'Hara and sophomore Molly Rollo, above, will try to repeat as state champs after a run in 5A last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Cardinal O’Hara (12-1)
The Lions finished tied atop the Philadelphia Catholic League standings with just one loss in league play before falling to eventual runner-up Wood in the PCL semis. Last season’s PIAA Class 5A champions don’t have the same talent level or experience as last year’s squad, but they’ve shown they’re still capable of knocking off some of the top teams in the state with wins over Lansdale Catholic, Archbishop Carroll, West Chester Rustin and more. Sophomore Molly Rullo a (5-11) and junior Joanie Quinn, who recently picked up an offer from La Salle, are the two top scoring options on offense, both first team All-PCL selections. Junior Carly Coleman closed the season strong to earn second team All-PCL honors. She fills up the statsheet in a multitude of ways. Senior point guard Bridget Dawson brings some experience from last season’s state title run while junior guard Greta Miller and freshman guard Megan Rullo are the other key members of the District 12 champions’ rotation. There’s talent there to make a run, however, Conestoga does have some size that could give the Lions some problems in the first round and a potential meeting with Spring-Ford in the second round would be a good one.
The Fords entered Saturday’s District 1 title game unblemished at 27-0 before a 48-44 loss to the Vikings that came down to the final seconds. The single loss doesn’t change that this historic Haverford team is really, really good. Senior 6-2 forward Carolin Dotsey, a Maine commit, is the team’s go-to scoring option and an eraser on the defensive end. Her ability to step out and hit shots outside and athleticism at her size are a mismatch for almost every team. Senior forward Mollie Carpenter, a 6-foot forward committed to Catholic, adds some size along with rebounding and scoring to go along with the edge she plays with. Guard Sky Newman gives them another senior in the starting lineup. Sophomore wing Rian Dotsey adds some more length and another scoring option. Junior guard Aniya Eberhart is capable of going off as well. The Fords were bounced in the first round last season but seem poised for a deep run. District 3’s Lebanon (26-2) and either District 3’s Central Dauphin (20-5) or District 7’s Norwin (21-4) are no rollovers in the first two rounds, but the Fords wouldn’t have to face a district champion until at least the state quarters.
Perkiomen Valley (1-1)
District 1’s Class 6A champion typically enters the state tournament as one of if not THE favorite as the last two have reached the state title game — Spring-Ford finishing as the runner-up in 2021 and PW finishing as the state champion in 2022. The Vikings lost to the eventual state champs in the PIAA quarters last season, but come into this year’s tournament with some raised expectations. The Vikings function around 6-3 sophomore forward Quinn Boettinger (16.5 ppg) in the post on offense, able to distribute from inside when the defense collapses or step out for a three. Classmate Grace Galbavy (13.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg) can score inside and out as a 5-11 wing, also leading her team in assists and steals and averaging about two blocks per game along with Boettinger. Sophomores Bella Bacani (10.3 ppg), Lena Stein (5.7 ppg) and Julia Smith (4.3 ppg) join them in the starting lineup. Bacani the team’s point guard adds another scoring punch while Stein is a terrific passer and terrific defender and Smith seems to hit a clutch long ball every game, also adding some distributing ability as well. Senior Ella Stein has been seeing most of the minutes off the bench during the postseason for Perk Valley, another versatile defender and energy booster who can hit big shots when called upon.
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