Some of them were crying as Coach Kelly Wetzel hung silver medals around their necks Thursday evening.
For the most part, though, the girls on the top-seeded Kennard-Dale lacrosse team had smiles on their faces following a 14-10 loss to No. 7 seed Manheim Township in the District 3 championship at Hersheypark Stadium.
Making their first appearance in the district title game, the Rams proved they could more than hang with a Blue Streaks program that has now won all five district titles since the tournament began in 2009. Manheim Township (20-4) also improved to 20-0 in the district tournament.
Kennard-Dale's four-goal margin of defeat was the smallest in the district title game since Penn Manor lost to Manheim Township by a goal in 2009.
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"They (Manheim Township) have been playing (lacrosse) since they came out of the womb," Kennard-Dale senior attack Nicole Black said. "They play year-round together. They're awesome. I'm so proud of my team for just staying with them the whole game."
Black helped the Rams (22-2) get started when she assisted teammate Lyndsey Duty for the first score of the game to put Kennard-Dale up, 1-0, 3 minutes, 10 seconds into the contest. But the Rams soon lost the lead and wouldn't regain it until Black (two goals, four assists) scored her team's final goal with 13:58 remaining in the second half to give Kennard-Dale a 10-9 edge.
"(I'm thinking) 'There is a lot of time (left), there's a lot that can happen,'" Black said of the go-ahead goal. "I think we let it get in our heads. I think we just kind of gave it to them a little bit. We got those two (yellow) cards. We started getting frustrated with each other because we were tired running around trying to guard three girls at once."
The Rams had trouble containing Manheim Township's lone senior starter, Molly Hendrick, a University of North Carolina recruit. Hendrick (seven goals, two assists) put the game away with two goals in the last 8:24 to seal the win.
"She's got a quick first step," Black, a La Salle recruit, said of Hendrick. "She's got that first step off the draw. She's an animal. She's a tank."
While Black, Duty (two goals) and Morgan Day (four goals) again led the Kennard-Dale attack, the Rams were missing a breakout performance from a role player, like they had received throughout the district tournament.
Still, Wetzel isn't disappointed in his team's performance.
"We were tired. (We had) two physical games (this week)," he said. "It's the end of the season. This is our 24th game."
Manheim Township outshot Kennard-Dale, 28-15. Rams' senior goalie Alana Pietra had a fantastic game with 15 saves, including nine stops in the first half.
"I knew it was gonna be a tough one," Pietra said. "I had to keep my head up no matter what. We're going to states next week so that's just awesome."
States: The Rams will now prepare for the PIAA tournament for the second time in program history. They'll face the District 11 champion on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
Parkland and Southern Lehigh will compete in the District 11 championship Friday night.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.