York Catholic girls' lacrosse a work in progress

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

The York Catholic girls’ lacrosse program has been one of the premiere squads in the York-Adams League for the better part of a decade.

With the steady leadership of coach Rob Linthicum along with a bevy of talented players over the years, the Irish have built what some might call a bit of dynasty.

With a couple of seniors graduating from last year’s District 3 Class 2A runner-up squad — a list that includes 2022 York-Adams Player of the Year Sydney Mentzer as well as all-stars Olivia Staples and Grace Doyle — the program has some opportunities for younger players to step up and fill their shoes.

Perhaps equally critical to the program’s success this season is a smooth transition from Linthicum, who stepped down after last season, to new head coach Jim Mullen. Mullen, a longtime assistant under Linthicum, has had to adjust to the added duties that come along with becoming the head coach of a program.

“It’s a lot different,” Mullen said. “I never had to do the administrative stuff before, so now all of the paperwork and stuff like that is different and it’s a lot more time-consuming. You just kind of wish sometimes that you can go back to just the X’s and O’s, but there’s a lot of other stuff that comes along with it.”

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While Mullen has carried over a vast majority of the principles that Linthicum used over the years, having a new coach and a handful of new players at important spots in the lineup is a challenge.

“They were some great players,” Mullen said of last year’s seniors. “When I was looking at the stats, out of our 437 goals last year, the five girls that graduated scored over 250 of them. So, we lost a lot.”

Tough loss: Lest anyone think the Irish will easily reload, continue to dominate and make runs to the district final like they have over the past several years, Mullen and his squad got a big wake-up call Saturday morning against Wyomissing. The Spartans ran roughshod over the Irish throughout the contest, blitzing the hosts in nearly every avenue en route to a 14-2 victory.

The Irish, now 2-1 overall, had rolled to a 17-6 triumph over Berks Catholic on Friday night. But the cold temperatures and 10 a.m. start time Saturday morning were less than ideal for a quick turnaround, and the Irish struggled mightily.

“They are really good,” Mullen said of the Spartans, who improved to 4-0. “And they have been for a couple of years now. They have at least six legit players on each end, so if you aren’t as deep, you can’t really match up with them. I don’t see many weaknesses. And I think that (what happened today) was my fault because we weren’t really prepared.”

York Catholic's Jessica Daugherty (6) against Twin Valley in the Class 2-A girls lacrosse title match in Harrisburg, Pa on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.

On paper, the Irish should be just fine this season. Despite the losses of Staples, Doyle and Mentzer — who is now a star for the York College women’s lacrosse team — the Irish have seven all-stars back, as well a new face on the block in Kathleen McKeague. Amanda Reed, the 2022 Goalie of the Year, is back along with Kaitlyn Bullen, the 2022 Attacker of the Year. So, too, are attackers Dulaney Staples and Jessica Daugherty, as well as defenders Sophie Perry, Grace Grandas and Anna Seufert.

The Irish also had a challenging start when it came to preseason practices. In addition to a new coach, many of Mullen’s players were also members of the girls’ basketball team, which played in the PIAA tournament. Because of that, players including Bullen, Reed and McKeague missed a week or so of practice.

“We only have two girls that don’t play multiple sports,” Mullen said. “A lot of them play three sports. I think we had nine come from basketball and we didn’t get them (in practice) until the second week, which is kind of tough because some things were new.”

Impressed so far: Despite the shortened preseason preparation, Mullen has been impressed with what he’s seen from the senior newcomer McKeague so far.

“Kathleen is a star in basketball and soccer,” Mullen said. “She has a great attitude and that’s kind of what I’m looking for right now — effort and attitude.”

While the outcome Saturday may indicate otherwise, Mullen has been high on his team’s defense and effort. The Spartans were able to rack up the goals against the Irish not so much in typical defensive sets, but rather because York Catholic had trouble with the draw controls and turnovers throughout the contest.

“Our defense is fine,” Mullen said. “We’re not struggling with that, even though we just allowed 14. The problem is when we would get a clear, we would get it to the midfield and then turn it over. The defense was exhausted, and I had to (pull Reed) because we just weren’t protecting her.”

York Catholic's Sophie Perry, right, works to stop Susquehannock's Rachel Stiffler during girls' lacrosse action at York Catholic High School in York City, Thursday, April 21, 2022. York Catholic would win the game 16-6. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Outcomes like the one Saturday have been rare for the York Catholic program over the years, but the good news is that it came in March instead of May. Mullen is confident that with time, the program will begin to round into shape and gel like the Irish teams of the recent past.

“We just need some time for some of our new players to adjust and step up and take the pressure off of our top three or four,” Mullen said. “Last year we had six or seven that were really strong and now we don’t have that, but it’s still early.”