One way to slow down a team as fast and talented as the Hershey High School girls’ lacrosse squad is to pour everything you’ve got into a defensive effort.
Another, far less desirable way, is to relinquish a late lead to one’s opponent and then suffer the torment of longer, more drawn-out possessions as the foe kills the clock.
Unfortunately for the Susquehannock Warriors, Thursday’s District 3 Class 2-A championship game at Lower Dauphin Middle School saw a little bit of both, but in the wrong order.
After the Warriors exerted maximum effort slowing the Trojan attack for most of the game, Susky seemed to run out gas. The Trojans would close the second half with four unanswered goals before scooping up an 11-9 victory.
The loss denied the top-seeded Warriors (19-4) what would have been a second-straight Class 2-A title. Second-seeded Hershey improved to 20-2.
“We played hard. We played well for most of the game, and as we wore down, we made some key mistakes in the second half,” Susquehannock head coach Steve Marshner said. “And that’s where we’ve got to learn to understand, we’re wore down and we can’t force some issues that we did.”
Kenna Hancock scored her fourth goal of the day to put the Warriors ahead 9-7 with 12 minutes, 28 seconds left, but shortly after, disaster struck — and quickly.
Hershey turns it on: After being sufficiently stifled through most of the contest, the Trojans’ turned a Warriors turnover into a quick score with 10:56 left to make it 9-8 Susky.
On the ensuing draw, Hershey’s Maddie Zimmer, a member of the United States’ under-17 women’s field hockey team, showed off her stellar athleticism by winning the draw and taking it down for her second goal of the game to even the score at 9-9 a mere nine seconds later.
Hershey again won the draw before possessing the ball for more than two minutes while further tiring the Warriors defense. The series of offensive movement ended with Taylor Yahn’s hat-trick goal that put Hershey ahead for good, 10-9, with 7:56 to play.
After a first half that saw the Warriors win nine of 12 draws, the Trojans flipped the script in the second, winning seven of 10. Hershey’s defense was also effective enough to cause nine Warriors turnover, a few costly ones coming when Susky attempted to reclaim the lead late. Hershey turned it over three times.
Another draw and another Trojans victory saw them race up field and put the game away with a goal with 6:15 left. After a Warriors turnover with 2:30 left to play, Hershey worked the ball to its end of the field and it never left.
“We were tired and that team was really in shape and and they are really fast,” Marshner said. “Our slow down worked for a while. But when we didn’t execute it all the way through, that’s when we lost it.
“We were winning the draw controls and we were slowing it down and waiting for the right opportunity. …We were playing really well and executing exactly what we wanted to in the game plan. But when you play a with that much talent and that much speed, it doesn’t take much to swing the tide.”
Early scoring: Emma Stiffler posted one of her two assists when, from behind the net, she found a cutting Arian Prediger to open the game’s scoring 51 seconds in. The teams traded goals before Kalen Hancock was the one to find a cutting Prediger and the Warriors led 3-1.
The Warriors then weathered the Trojans' first attempt at a comeback. Some timely saves from goalie Sam McGuire helped Susky erase two of three turnovers before Hershey could get back to a 3-3 tie. McGuire finished the game with 10 saves.
With Hershey on a small run, Kenna Hancock swung momentum back to the Susky side when she raced toward the goal, and in an effort the protect the ball, raised her stick high while sandwiched between two defenders. From that raised position, she quickly fired the ball down to the bottom right corner of the net, helping the Warriors reclaim the lead.
A minute and a half later, it was Hancock with the passing touch from behind the cage, finding a wide-open Stiffler for the first of her two goals on the day.
She added her second of the day with one minute before halftime, putting the Warriors up 6-3 and setting off quite the scoring spree to close the half.
Zimmer found Angela Bagatta for a goal 19 seconds after Stiffler’s tally, but Prediger finished off her hat trick effort 18 seconds after Bagatta’s marker and Susky eventually took a 7-4 lead into the locker room.
Coming up: Next up for Warriors is the first round of the PIAA tournament vs. the District 4 champion at a site and time yet to be determined.
“We don’t feel good right now, but look where we’ve come. We can’t hang our heads for too long,” Marshner said. “We come right back at it on Tuesday and we have to realize all the things we’ve accomplished.”
Wyomissing 13, Kennard-Dale 12: At Millersville, the Rams dropped the District 3 Class 2-A third-place contest at Penn Manor High School.
Third-seeded Kennard-Dale fell to 18-4. Fourth-seeded Wyomissing improved to 17-6.
Both teams qualified for the PIAA playoffs, which start Tuesday. K-D will face the District 7 champion.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.