GLEN ROCK — Even when the York Catholic girls' lacrosse team had its York-Adams League semifinal against Red Lion in hand, there was no let up. Not on the offensive end, nor on the defensive end.
The pressure by the Fighting Irish attackers and midfielders was relentless and prevented the Lions from clearing the ball, leading to dozens of turnovers, which led to goal after goal.
By the end of Tuesday's game at Susquehannock High School, the 16-4 victory by York Catholic was more indicative of a middle-of-the-year regular-season game, rather than a playoff showdown.
"We've been working on our transition game a lot and it looked really good tonight," Fighting Irish head coach Rob Linthicum said. "We were moving the ball well on defense and they have a lot speed on that team. That's a lot of speed and a lot of aggression and a lot of good players, but I told them that you have to move the ball in the air. They can't out-run the ball."
York Catholic's entire season can be defined by its defense. The Irish (17-0) haven't surrendered more than nine goals in a game, slowing down several high-flying offenses in the process. Tuesday's game vs. Red Lion (12-6) was no different,. It had the same tone as the two teams' prior meeting, which York Catholic won, 22-4.
After the game opened with both sides trading goals, the Irish defense took over. Anytime the Lions gained possession, York Catholic's defenders were there to cause turnovers.
That constant pressure led to four unanswered goals by the Irish in the first half of the opening half to open up a 5-1 lead. That trend continued for the rest of the half. York Catholic closed on a 7-2 run to take an 8-3 lead into the break.
"Ever since I was the coach at Kennard-Dale, defense was the focus," Linthicum said. "Now, ever since I became the coach at York Catholic, defense has always been a focus. We start with our defense and build forward. We set out every year to hold our opponents to under eight (goals), because we feel that if we can hold our opponents to under eight, we can win games."
The Irish didn't let Red Lion even sniff the possibility of getting to eight goals on Tuesday, possessing the ball for the majority of the second half. That led to seven straight goals to begin the half and an 8-1 advantage in the final 25 minutes.
York Catholic was led by Anna Linthicum, who scored five goals and added two assists, while Lauren China netted four of her own. Lisa Casagrande had a five-point game, scoring two goals and adding three assists. For the Lions, Peyton Shima had two goals and an assist.
Even though the Irish entered the year seemingly as the favorite in the Y-A League, they still struggled to escape the shadow of Kennard-Dale, even though York Catholic beat the Rams on the road earlier in the season.
Linthicum knows that winning the league title would solidify everything that his team has done up to this point, maybe not to his players, but to the rest of the area.
Now, the Irish will have to knock off K-D one more time, this time in Thursday's championship game, to capture their second league title in three years.
"(Thursday) is the game that counts," Linthicum said. "That's the one that does solidify and that's the one we need to win."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com