There was no doubt that Tuesday's clash between Kennard-Dale and York Catholic was a game that girls' lacrosse fans, coaches and players were eagerly awaiting since the season began.
The Rams have been the class of the York-Adams League over its three-year existence, while the Irish have done just about everything in the league but knock off K-D.
Except for the presence of K-D standout Katie Fonte, the reigning Division II Player of the Year who hasn't competed so far this season while recovering from wrist surgery, there wasn't much more anyone could have wanted from Tuesday afternoon's battle.
The Rams raced out to an early 5-0 lead and hung on for dear life. The Irish made a late charge in the second half at Hannah Penn Middle School. But a costly miscue in the game's final two minutes by the home team allowed K-D to gain possession, which the Rams maintained until the final horn sounded to salt away a dramatic 14-13 victory.
"One or two more minutes in the second half would have been good," York Catholic coach Rob Linthicum said. "But really I think the game was lost in the first five minutes."
Three goals from Taylor Davis and a pair from Carlie Schmitt put the visitors ahead early.
That barrage was like a nightmare come true for Linthicum, who along with current K-D coach Kelly Wetzel, started the club program in the Southeastern School District years ago.
"We just dug too big a hole," said Linthicum, whose career record at York Catholic fell to 0-7 against his former club. "I think if we could have played tight with them the whole way it could have been a different game."
Both teams entered the contest undefeated while featuring a perfect mix of a strong offense and a stingy defense. K-D (now 7-0 overall and in Division II) came in as the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 19.33 goals a game, while surrendering just 5.5 goals. The Irish (now 5-1 overall and in Division II) entered the contest averaging 16.2 goals a game and led the league with a 3.8 goals-against average.
Both attributes were on display throughout the contest. The Rams scored in spurts of five, three and two goals, while the Irish pieced together two-, three- and four-goal runs.
It was that last four-goal run that allowed the home team to make it a 14-13 contest late.
York Catholic was able to rally in the second half by winning seemingly every draw over the final 10 minutes.
"They found what was working on the draw and they stuck with it," Wetzel said. "To their credit, they put the ball where they could get it. We got called for fouls and they kept possession."
While they didn't seem nearly as important in the first half when they occurred, Ram goalie Allie Stork stoned the Irish several times during her team's early 5-0 run.
"She will do whatever she can to stop the ball," Wetzel said of his goalie. "She just wants the team to win."
Stork's play, which included 11 big saves, didn't come as a surprise to Nicole Black.
"She was on fire at practice yesterday," said Black, who is one of K-D's captains. "I just had so much faith in her. I knew she was going to be hot today."
On the outside, the victory may not seem like a big deal for the Rams, who have won three straight Division II titles in addition to claiming the first-ever league title a year ago. That, however, was not the case, according to Black.
"This proved something," Black said. "Everyone is thinking that because we don't have Katie that we're not as strong, but we have strong freshmen that have moved up and that has really shown."
The freshman trio of Lyndsey Duty, Morgan Day and Brooke Davis have emerged already. Taylor Davis and Day each tallied a team-high four goals, while Schmitt added three.
Natalie Fiorenza led the Irish with four goals, while Alexis China added three goals and an assist. Catholic goalie Alana Pietra finished with five saves.
OTHER GIRLS' LACROSSE
RED LION 20, DALLAS TOWN 9: The host Lions led 9-6 at intermission and outscored Dallastown 11-3 in the second half. Red Lion had five players score at least two goals each, led by Sierra Donovan (seven goals) and Alyssa Dehoff (four goals). Breann Young collected four goals for the visiting Wildcats.
SOUTH WESTERN 23, CENTRAL YORK 4: The host Panthers scored all of their goals in the first half, getting a pair from Alexis Balanda and a goal each from MacKenzie Windsor (three assists) and Allison Scott. South Western put 32 shots on goal to Central's 11. Panthers' goalie Julian Kailian made 10 saves. The Mustangs had six players each score at least two goals.
SUSQUEHANNOCK 22, YORK SUBURBAN 11: At Suburban, Brooke Clasing and Brit Boyer combined for 13 goals to power the Warriors. Another Boyer, Bri, racked up five goals for the winners. Aly Kleynen registered three goals for Suburban.
WEST YORK 13, SPRING GROVE 9: The visiting Bulldogs got five goals from Sara Sweitzer and four from Allee Ilgenfritz, while Karli Breeden and Brittany Armpriester each added a pair. West York goalie Abbey Cox made nine saves. Spring Grove was led by Dempsey Murphy (three goals) and Shelby Walter (two goals).
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.