Kennard-Dale girls' lacrosse coach Kelly Wetzel couldn't come up with enough positive things to say about the Manheim Township girls' lacrosse program.
And, really, with how dominant the Blue Streaks have been in the District 3 playoffs, every single thing that Wetzel said about them was hardly hyperbole.
Since District 3 added a girls' lacrosse tournament in 2009, Manheim Township has won every single championship. That's seven consecutive titles and, including its first two wins in this year's tournament, 30 straight victories. At this point, the other 15 teams that qualify for the 16-team bracket understand that if they ever want to get their hands on the district trophy, they'll have to go through the Blue Streaks.
The next team in line to try and tame Manheim Township is Wetzel's K-D bunch. It was a showdown a week in the making once the district pairings were released. The brackets had K-D as the No. 2 seed and the Blue Streaks as No. 6. All both sides had to do was win their first two games and they were bound on a semifinal collision course for the third consecutive season.
Now, they're there.
"We know it's going to be a fight," Wetzel said about the upcoming meeting. "I think it's one that we feel if we play our game, we have as good a shot as anybody at beating them. We know that we have to play a clean game, and we have our moments where we do well, but I think we're positive, which is a good thing."
Remaining upbeat: Maintaining positivity is the first step in trying to conquer Manheim Township.
Since the 2009 tournament, the Blue Streaks (15-6) are a remarkable 138-1 against their Lancaster-Lebanon League and fellow District 3 foes. All of their losses this season came to powerhouse teams outside of District 3. Yet, in the midst of its impressive run, if there's a District 3 team that's at least tested Manheim Township over the years, it's been the Rams (19-1). So, there is reason for the players to be positive heading into Tuesday's meeting.
Last year, when the two sides squared off in the district semifinals, the Blue Streaks escaped with a 16-9 win. The previous year, K-D lost by just five in the semifinals. And the year before that, the Rams lost by four in the title game.
The two teams have developed this little rivalry within the district tournament over the last few years, with this year being the fourth consecutive season they'll square off in the postseason. With the way both sides have rolled through their respective leagues over the past several years, it's a refreshing change of competition. They even got together for a winter-season match-up earlier this year.
So, while the results have been one-sided, the familiarity is at least something that Wetzel knows he can resort to when trying to concoct the perfect game plan to be the first team to finally take down Manheim Township.
"They're senior laden. They've been playing together for a while," Wetzel said. "They move the ball well. They know where to put it in their passing game. They're smart enough to know when and when not to shoot. They know match-ups, they're a smart team, well-coached. There's not much else you can say. They play their game and you have to play yours. If you're reacting to them, then you're not taking the advantage and that probably means they're already up on you."
Knowing what's at stake: For most teams, taking on a powerhouse like the Blue Streaks is an unenviable task.
Yet, it's one that K-D has relished over the years, rarely backing down. While, the Rams had their own dynastic streak snapped earlier this year, losing their first regular-season York-Adams League game since 2011, they rebounded to win the league playoff title and win their first two district tournament games by a combined 24 goals. While it might not be as senior heavy as Manheim Township, K-D still has its own slew of seniors and veteran underclassmen familiar with facing the Blue Streaks.
By making it to the semifinals, the Rams have assured themselves of at least two more games. Whether or not that second game is for the District 3 championship or in the district consolation round hinges on Tuesday's outcome. But, along with making it this far, and adding some pressure to the situation, is the state tournament. Knowing that the top three teams from District 3 qualify for states, a win will not only put K-D in position to play for the district championship, but also assure it of at least one state tournament game. A loss and life after districts rests on winning the consolation game.
Therein lies the competition within the competition for the Rams heading into Tuesday's game, adding a little more to the already huge match-up.
"(Our players) already know they have at least two games," Wetzel said. "But, they also know what's at stake and that no team other than Lancaster has won the title for District 3. It's all been Manheim Township. It's been tough to get there. It's been tough to even come close to beating them. ... We're calm and believing in each other and that's a step."
Tuesday's game is set for 5 p.m. at Hershey High School.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org