Even traditional girls' lacrosse powers York Catholic, Kennard-Dale have questions in 2021

RYAN VANDERSLOOT
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York Catholic's Ella Linthicum shoots and scores while covered by Jordan Gertz, left, and Ella Baker of South Western, in April of 2019. Linthicum is one of the top returning players for the Irish. John A. Pavoncello photo

Like other spring sports, high school girls’ lacrosse has a large bit of uncertainty in 2021.

After the COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented cancellation of the entire 2020 spring season, there are some large questions about which York-Adams League teams should be considered the favorites as we embark on a new campaign.

“We lost an entire season so we’re trying to pick back up,” York Catholic coach Rob Linthicum said. “At this point, the mindset of the team seems to be in really good shape right now.”

While Linthicum’s team won the District 3 Class 2-A title back in 2019 with a slew of freshmen and sophomores, like they say on Wall Street, “past success may not be indicative of future returns.”

That is especially true for an Irish squad that is without some key seniors from that 2019 team, as well as a pair of junior starters from that squad who never got the chance to play last year as seniors.

“We were lucky that we only had two,” Linthicum said. “But we also had one of our top defenders (Paris Masaracchia) transfer to Bishop Shanahan and our goalkeeper from that team (Morghan Kilduff) two years ago has transferred back to her public school in Maryland.”

So even with half of the starting lineup from that title team back, Linthicum is hesitant to project any sense of overconfidence.

“Our big question mark is going to be at goalkeeper,” he said. “We have three to choose from, and going into the season opener we’re not set on any one of the three as the starter. So, you’ll probably be, at least early in the season, splitting time with our goalkeepers.”

The Irish did open up with an impressive 25-5 nonleague triumph at Exeter on Monday. Ella Linthicum, Sydney Mentzer and Olivia Staples are among YC's top returning players from the 2019 squad.

York Catholic's Sydney Mentzer, left, controls the ball while Kennard-Dale's Megan Halczuk defends during girls' lacrosse championship action at Eastern York Senior High School in Wrightsville, Friday, May 10, 2019. Mentzer returns for York Catholic this season. Halczuk has since graduated. Dawn J. Sagert photo

K-D coach tries to tamp down expectations: While the Irish have perennially been one of the top teams in the York-Adams region over the past decade or so, another program that has long rivaled the Irish  is Kennard-Dale.

The Rams were the team the Irish defeated to capture their district title in 2019, but K-D did knock off the Irish to win the Y-A title a few weeks earlier. It was the Rams’ fifth consecutive league crown.

K-D has also appeared in two PIAA 2-A title games in recent years, while also graduating a slew of players into the upper ranks of the college game.

Expectations for this year, however, should be tamped down, according to coach Kelly Wetzel.

“We obviously don’t have a Megan Halczuk out there anymore,” Wetzel said of his former standout who graduated  in 2019 and now plays collegiately for NCAA Division I UMBC.

“I think we could have surprised some teams last year if we had a season, but we really needed last year to get this year’s sophomores and this year’s juniors a chance to have some varsity time.”

Wetzel’s program is loaded with freshmen and sophomores this season, which is why he says expectations need adjusting. While talented, none of those players had ever played a minute of varsity action before this season.

“Varsity speed and JV speeds are just completely different,” said Wetzel, whose team suffered a 19-2 setback Saturday morning against Philly-area power Garnett Valley. “So, I think that every game this year will be a challenge for us.”

Contenders hard to predict: As coaches, Linthicum and Wetzel are typically in the loop when it comes to knowing every team’s roster.

The lost season, however, has left both of them scratching their heads when it comes to predicting the contenders for the Y-A crown.

“After losing a whole year, you kind of lose track of who has graduated and who is still around,” Rob Linthicum said.

“Usually I’ll have a pretty good scouting report of all the teams,” Wetzel added. “But having not played for nearly two years, I have no clue.”

— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.