There are a number of teams within the District 3 girls' lacrosse landscape that would like to think they are among the area's top high school programs.
But, until another team proves otherwise, the class of District 3 is still Manheim Township. This is the seventh year of the District 3 girls' lacrosse tournament, and in the previous six years, the Blue Streaks are a perfect 6-for-6 in titles. Now, they're back in the semifinals in their quest for No. 7.
But, standing in Manheim Township's way and poised to make a name for itself within the district is Kennard-Dale, this year's top overall seed and a squad that is all too familiar with the Blue Streaks. The Rams had their last two District 3 title runs halted by Manheim Township in 2013 and 2014.
Last season, the two sides met in the semifinals and it was the Blue Streaks that came away with a 16-11 victory. In 2013, they met a round later in the championship game and, again, it was Manheim Township pulling out the 14-10 win.
"I think they've had more success, not that they're trying to run-and-gun, but they make the most of their possessions," K-D coach Kelly Wetzel said. "And I think that's what any team that plays them has to do. You only get so many touches on the ball and you can't afford to throw the thing away."
On paper, it looks like the advantage should go to K-D. It enters as the No. 1 seed and a perfect 20-0 on the season. In contrast, the Blue Streaks go into Tuesday's semifinal sitting at 15-5 and seeded fifth. But, rankings can be deceiving.
Manheim Township won the championship seeded anywhere from the No. 1 seed (2010-12) to as low as the No. 7 seed in 2013, when it defeated the Rams, who were that year's top team. At some point, something has to give for the Rams.
This is now the third consecutive year the two teams will meet, but that's hardly a valid reason to expect that this year's result will mirror those of the previous two seasons.
While, the teams are hardly replicas of last year's squads, let alone two years ago, there are still a few things that K-D is taking from those previous encounters to prepare for Tuesday's meeting.
"They're fast and they're athletic," Wetzel said. "They understand the game of lacrosse. They're not just athletes, but they're athletes that play lacrosse, which is different than regular lacrosse players. They have a lot of the skills that most teams are looking for."
Day nears record: While history between the two programs may not be on the Rams' side, one advantage they do possess is having, perhaps, the best player on the field in Morgan Day.
The senior is the catalyst to a K-D attack that has a handful of girls who have scored more than 20 goals this season. Opponents have tried different methods of defending Day, including face-guarding her to try to take her out of the game. That has held Day to some scoreless first-half performances, but the Rams' attack picked up the slack on those occasions and made it difficult for the opposition to stick to that tactic for an entire game.
"I think the one thing that sets Morgan apart is she understands the game of lacrosse," Wetzel said. "She understands that if the ball is on the left, then 'where do I have to be to get the most out of it?' She understands the space of awareness — on-ball and off-ball — she gets those type of concepts."
For the past month, each game that K-D has played came with a subplot to the game's actual outcome.
Day has been on a quest to become the nation's all-time leading scorer in high school girls' lacrosse, sitting just three goals behind tying the record of 459, set by Megan Shortt of North Carolina in 2014.
"I have no idea, when I'm on the field, what is happening with (the record)," Day said following last Thursday's win over York Catholic in the quarterfinal. "I have no idea how many goals I have because, when I'm on the field, I'm not focused about that. I'd rather have my team win and progress in districts than ever achieve that goal. I want the most for our team and want us to succeed over scoring that goal."
There will be a lot of implications come Tuesday evening, both on a local and national level. But, if the national-level goal can come true, then so too might the local-level one for the Rams.
"Winning in York County is one thing," Wetzel said. "Winning in the mid-state is another and then winning at the state level, going up against the Philly and Pittsburgh teams, is an entirely different thing. ... We're sitting here with the perfect record, but we haven't played some of the caliber of talent that (Manheim Township) has. So everyone has to go out and play their game. We know that if we do the best we can, that's all we can walk away with. Maybe we walk away with a win, maybe we don't, but at the end of the day, if we play our game, we have as good a shot as anybody."
Tuesday's game is set for 7 p.m. at Hershey High School. Susquehannock takes on. Hempfield in the other semifinal at 5 p.m. at the same location.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org