By Chris Goldberg
Conestoga’s Monica Borzillo said her team entered the 2016 PIAA championship game this spring vs. Radnor with extreme confidence.
“I think we went into it not accepting the possibility of losing,” said Borzillo. “We trained so hard for that. We thought of it as completing what we started. We wanted to go out with a memorable performance.”
That day, June 11, was indeed memorable for Borzillo and her Pioneers, who capped a 24-1 season with a convincing 18-7 rout of the Raiders for their first PIAA title. Borzillo collected 79 goals and an area-high 109 assists this year and earned US Lacrosse All-American honors as the Pioneers won the Central League for the second straight year and finished among the top 25 in all national polls.
Borzillo herself was especially dominant in the state playoffs when the Pioneers outscored their foes 70-27. She collected 14 goals and 27 assists in the four-game run capped by her four goals and eight assists in the state finals.
Fort her efforts, Borzillo, a senior attacker, has been named the Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year ( shared with Springside Chestnut Hill Academy senior Mikaela Watson ).
Borzillo’s amazing assist total was due to uncanny ability to feed from behind the cage. Conestoga also had a core of dangerous attackers that have played together for years.
“Monica is one of a kind player,” said Conestoga coach Amy Orcutt. “I have never coached one with that ability to feed from behind that well. She has unbelievable field vision and can thread the needle passes so accurately.
“She is such a good spot feeder; she feeds where teammates are going to be and not where they are. She has played with these girls her whole life and they got used to each other. She is very unselfish and knew exactly what Sondra (Dickey) was going to do and what Liz (Scott) was going to do and what Hannah (Ashton) was going to do.”
Borzillo, who will play at the University of Cincinnati, said the key point of the year was actually Conestoga’s lone defeat, a 13-10 loss to arch-rival Radnor in the District 1 quarterfinals. That loss forced the Pioneers to to the loser’s brackets where they had to win twice to make the state playoffs. After that, the Pioneers dominated every foe.
“It showed us we weren’t invincible,” said Borzillo. “Once you win so many games you can get content. I am not saying we lost our drive, but we were getting comfortable.”
The Pioneers had dealt with a tough loss the year before – their 14-10 defeat to Garnet Valley in the state final in a game many felt they were expected to win. Borzillo said the team did not dwell on the loss or use it as a rallying cry for 2016; instead she said this team wanted to forge its own path.
“We all hang out after games or practices and we work out together,” said Borzillo. “The players trusted everyone so much. We were always feeding off each other; if I was messing up one day, someone would come up to me and say, “It’s just one of those days. Try this and you can improve.’
“Nobody ever declined any advice. I know it’s hard for people to hear advice being thrown at them. But we’d change things based on what other people on the team recommended. We had so much faith in one another.”
Borzillo relished her role this year as a playmaker, noting that the Pioneers had so many offensive weapons that it made defending them nearly impossible.
“I just describe it as doing my job,” she said. “I have been with these girls since I was a third grader and being with for so long it was easy to count on them.”
Orcutt summed up Borzillo’s contributions by noting her leadership skills.
“Monica is a very passionate person,” said Orcutt. “Our girls gave speeches before games and at many points in the season she would give a speech to get everybody so fired up. Without being labeled a captains he was one of our best leaders.”