WEST CHESTER — At the beginning of the year, the Kennard-Dale girls' lacrosse team set a goal to make the state tournament.
Expectations, however, can change as a season progresses. When the Rams opened the season at 20-0, just a berth into the tournament would no longer suffice. The team had dreams of at least winning a game and trying to advance as far as possible.
Wednesday, K-D achieved its preseason goal by playing in the first round of the PIAA girls' lacrosse playoffs, but it fell short on the altered expectations. The Rams lost to District 1 champion Great Valley, 17-7, at West Chester East High School, ending their season at 21-2.
"They took advantage of some height issues and speed," K-D coach Kelly Wetzel said. "So, they took advantage of our weaknesses by far and that's what good teams should do."
On every level, the Rams seemed to be out-matched by the Patriots, and that's hardly a knock on K-D. The height and speed differential between the two sides was noticeable, but so was the ability to control face-offs, win ground balls and limit turnovers. Great Valley controlled every facet of the game, especially defensively.
The Patriots swarmed to the ball on defense, giving the Rams little time to make decisions. That led to numerous errant passes and costly turnovers, allowing Great Valley to get into transition and use its speed to set up its offense. From there, the Patriots were patient, possessing the ball for great lengths, patiently waiting to find the best possible scoring chance and then capitalizing.
After opening up a 2-1 lead, Great Valley went on a 6-0 scoring run to break open the game with just under eight minutes remaining. The Patriots took a 10-2 advantage into halftime and then picked up where they left off to begin the second half.
Another 6-0 run over the course of eight minutes from the end of the first half and into the start of the second allowed the Patriots to open up a 12-goal cushion and cruise to the finish line.
But, to K-D's credit, it continued to battle. A mini 3-0 spurt midway through the second half helped it get the score back under 10 to keep from having a running clock. Still playing with a sense of pride and passion for accomplishing their goal, the Rams outscored Great Valley 5-3 over the final 20 minutes, fueled by seniors Morgan Day and Lyndsey Duty, who accounted for all five goals.
"I thought they actually fought harder in the second half than then they did in the first half," Wetzel said. "...There was more hustle in the second half than there was in the first half and I'm pleased with that. End on the best note possible."
Day led all K-D scorers with four goals, the only player to score more than once. Maddie Day, Hannah Bracey and Duty each tallied a goal, with Duty adding the lone assist for the Rams. For Morgan Day, the four-goal night brings her national-record goal total to 469. She, Duty and a host of other seniors capped off stellar careers that consisted of two state tournament berths in the last three years, paving the way for greater things in the future.
"I think the most important thing in making it this far in these seasons is setting goals for the next crew to come in," Duty said.
In goal, freshman Clare Boone finished her state-tournament debut with five saves.
For the Patriots, their balanced attack was at its best on the biggest stage. They had six different players score goals and four recorded hat tricks. Junior Linnea Hughes led all Great Valley players with four goals, followed by senior Megan Buettner, junior Kristen Knaff and sophomore Natalie Kahn with three each.
While the score line wasn't favorable for K-D, the experience was. For the players who will return for the Rams next season, Wednesday night's game was a chance to play a top-caliber opponent and gain valuable experience that will help them progress in the future.
"I think they saw how lacrosse is supposed to be played today," Wetzel said. "Fast, on-the-move, move with a purpose, don't waste it, control the ball. They had opportunities to drive and it wasn't a guaranteed goal, so they decided to slow it up and then wait until they could run their offense, which is awesome and what I think every team should look to do, and all year long we tried to force things that weren't there."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org