HERSHEY — For Susquehannock girls' lacrosse coach Steve Marshner, the answer was simple when asked why his team lost to Hempfield in Tuesday's District 3 semifinal — one team came to play right from the start and one didn't.
The second-seeded Warriors trailed for 49 minutes, 48 seconds of Tuesday's 16-12 loss to the Black Knights.
The defeat sends Susquehannock into Thursday's consolation game, with a berth to the state tournament still on the line. The Warriors will face a familiar foe — Kennard-Dale. The top-seeded Rams lost their semifinal contest on Tuesday to Manheim Township, 16-9. The third-place match will take place at 5 p.m. at Lower Dauphin Middle School. Susquehannock has already lost to K-D twice this season.
Hempfield took little time to establish its fast-paced, high-scoring style of play. Actually, 12 seconds, to be exact.
Right from the opening faceoff, sophomore Sammy Helgeson took the draw and raced down the field, beating Warriors' goalie Amber Orner to open the scoring 12 seconds into the game. That set the tone. The Black Knights scored five of the game's first six goals in the opening 5:08, forcing Marshner to take a timeout and assess the damage.
"They came out to play and we were a little nervous, or whatever," he said. "We just didn't come out at the same level that they came out. We just didn't match intensity at all at the beginning."
The timeout helped settle down Susquehannock, allowing it a chance to work its way back into the game. But, no matter what it did the rest of the game, nothing could completely erase the rough beginning. That slow start was the major difference in an otherwise close contest.
The two sides each scored 11 goals following the timeout, but the Warriors could never get any closer than within two goals. Any form of momentum Susquehannock garnered was quickly erased by Hempfield.
A perfect example of that came right before halftime, when Ashley Valway scored twice for the Warriors to pull them to within 11-8 going into the break. But, rather than taking that momentum and using it to continue chipping away at the deficit, it was the Black Knights who came out fast to begin the final half, scoring three of the first four goals.
"It just didn't work out the way we drew it up at halftime," Marshner said. "But, good teams do that to you."
It was really three girls that beat Susquehannock. Helgeson finished with six goals and one assist, while Taylor Nolan and Lindsay Vannucci added four apiece. In goal, Sarah Wood made a game-high 10 saves for Hempfield.
For the Warriors, Valway matched Helgeson's performance with a six-goal, one-assist effort. Gena Speights added three goals and an assist for Susquehannock, while Kate LeBlanc, Morgan LeBlanc and Maddie Ellis each scored once. In goal, Orner made seven stops.
The Warriors will take on either No. 1 Kennard-Dale or No. 5 Manheim Township in Thursday's consolation game. The Black Knights, meanwhile, made it to the District 3 championship game for the first time ever.
"We've been here and danced here before and never made it," Black Knights coach Liz Erb said. "We've been on this field and not made it to the next one, so it's so exciting for these girls to see all the hard work that they've been putting into their season come to fruition in that final game."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org