If there was any York-Adams League sport that gave us the feeling of a season-long playoff race, both the boys' and girls' lacrosse seasons were it.
From Day 1, it was obvious that several teams on each side were going to be neck and neck for the entire regular season, jostling for playoff position come postseason play. Well, here we are, just days away from the start of the 2016 Y-A League playoffs and, while the eight teams — four boys and four girls — who will compete for the championship are decided, that's about the only clarity we have.
See, just as muddled as the regular season was, those waters become even murkier in the postseason. Throughout the regular season, you got a sense of what teams would most likely be there come playoff time, but there was little separating those top teams. So, now, with postseason action beginning on Tuesday, good luck even trying to remotely handicap which team is the favorite on either side.
Regardless, here's a preview of what to look for in both the boys' and girls' brackets of the Y-A League lacrosse playoffs.
Boys: To say that the boys' playoffs essentially started three weeks ago might be cliche, but it's true.
At that time, I wrote a column talking about how many strong teams there were in the league this year and at that time, seven of the 12 teams were within one game of one of the four playoff spots. Obviously, a few teams had to get left out and for fans of Dallastown and West York, you were it, just barely on the outside looking in. The four lucky teams? Red Lion, York Catholic, Central York and Susquehannock, with the Lions and Fighting Irish finishing in a tie for first, while the Panthers and Warriors finished tied for third, just a game behind the other two.
Now, they'll go to battle, with very little separating either of the four.
Red Lion and York Catholic each went 2-1 against the other three teams in the tournament, which ultimately is the difference between them being the two top seeds and either a three or a four seed.
In the 1 vs. 4 game, the Lions will take on Susquehannock. However, don't think that just because Red Lion is the top seed going into the tournament, that it has the upper hand in this game. The Warriors knocked off the Lions, 10-9, back on April 28, so they know what it takes to pull off the upset. But, where this match-up does get intriguing doesn't have as much to do with any of the players on the field, but where it's getting played. With Red Lion and Susquehannock the host venues for the league playoffs, one of these teams was going to get a de facto home game and it just happens to be the Lions. How much of a home-field advantage will that be for Red Lion, we'll never truly know, but it is an interesting wrinkle in the clash.
In the other match-up, the Fighting Irish will take on the Panthers for the second time in a seven-day period. These two teams concluded their league schedules against each other last Tuesday, with York Catholic prevailing, 14-13, on the road. Central York did play one game since losing to the Fighting Irish, knocking off a good Trinity squad, so it'll at least go into the game off a win, rather than a potential three-game losing streak. These two squads will play at Susquehannock.
Girls: For the first time since 2011, the Kennard-Dale girls' lacrosse team lost a Y-A League regular season contest.
So, in rare fashion, the Rams will enter the tournament at the No. 2 seed, taking on Susquehannock at Red Lion High School. These two teams played each other last Thursday to close out the regular season, with K-D prevailing easily, 17-6. Even with the loss on their schedule, the Rams enter with a plus-211 goal differential on the season, without a doubt, the best of any of the four playoff teams. So, even as a No. 2 seed, you can probably consider K-D as the favorite to repeat as league champions and make it a fifth title in six years.
Just don't overlook York Catholic, the lone team to knock off the Rams in the regular season. Even more impressive about the Fighting Irish's win over K-D is the fact that it came on the road, a 9-8 overtime victory. Everything about that victory proved that this York Catholic outfit has what it takes to win its second league title. Standing in the Fighting Irish's way is Red Lion, a team who, with all due respect, just doesn't quite have the same pedigree as the other three schools in the tournament. That's not to say that the Lions aren't a good squad, but historically speaking, when it's come to the Y-A League, K-D, York Catholic and Susquehannock are the three in the top tier, while Red Lion settles in the one below. That was proven true this year, as all three of the Lions' league losses came against the three other schools in the tournament, including a 22-4 defeat against the Fighting Irish.
So, while you could make the case for any of the four boys' teams to win the league championship, it's hard not to see the girls' side going chalk.
Regardless, if the playoffs at all resemble how the regular season played out, this should be one fun postseason.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org