By John Knebels

Talk about making some major noise in your first concert.

In its first-ever school year, Royersford’s Pope John Paul II High School managed to reach the state tournament and then win a game.

That – and not their subsequent quarterfinal loss to undefeated Valley View in the second round – is what the Golden Panthers will focus on when they review this past season. {{more}}

“I’m proud of the girls,” said coach John Bilella. “They really worked hard and never gave up in any of our games.”

Among the standout Golden Panthers was senior pitcher Nikki Troisi. At times dominant but almost always in control, Troisi helped the Golden Panthers finish with a 14-10 record.

Perhaps the game that represented John Paul II the best was its 7-5 victory over Donegal in the Class AAA state tournament opener. The Panthers led by 2-0, then trailed 5-2, but eventually exploded for five runs and held on for the victory.

Key hits by Talia Catagnus, Patsy Murphy and Megan O’Connor tied the game. Troisi gave her team a 6-5 lead on a sacrifice fly.

“I was concerned when we were down three runs, but I knew that this team was more than capable of coming back,” Bilella said.

Troisi and Deirdre Wieber are the only two starters who will graduate, so the future looks bright.

“I will miss this team and the school,” Troisi said. “For a team playing together for the first time, I think we did really well.”

Catholic League champion Lansdale Catholic also advanced to the state quarterfinals and would have played John Paul II in the semis if the teams had emerged victorious.

Trailing 2-0, the Crusaders tied the game 2-2 in the third. Trailing 4-2, Lansdale Catholic scored a run in the sixth and then dramatically tied the contest in their last at-bat. But Manheim Central scored a run in the eighth and thwarted yet another comeback, and the Crusaders’ season ended with a 5-4 loss.

Key hits by Kelly Schoener, Kailyn Wunder and Brittany Bray complemented gutty pitching from Mary Cate Scott, but it wasn’t enough to advance the Crusaders to the semifinals.

“It was a great season,” Bray said. “Winning the Catholic League, then districts. We would have liked to have gone further in states, but we came up short. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”

In boys’ lacrosse, Catholic League champion St. Joseph’s Prep’s season came to a halt with a 17-4 loss to Conestoga in the state final. The Prep led 3-0, but powerful Conestoga took control of the game in the second quarter and never looked back.

John Knebels can be reached at