HERSHEY — When his team fell behind by four goals with 17 minutes, 14 seconds left to play, Kennard-Dale girls’ lacrosse coach Kelly Wetzel called timeout and delivered a simple message to his team.
Their faith would be rewarded.
The Rams would go on to score six unanswered goals after regrouping, leading to a 17-15 victory over powerhouse Manheim Township in the District 3 semifinals Tuesday at Hershey High School.
The win means, for the first time since the tournament began, District 3 will have a new girls’ lacrosse champion. The Blue Streaks had won their previous 30 district contests, good enough for seven straight titles.
“That was our motivation all year long,” said Wetzel of beating the vaunted Blue Streaks. “We believe we had other things to offer (other than winning a York-Adams title). We had our wake-up call earlier this year against York Catholic (during a regular-season loss) and they’ve responded since."
K-D advances to the championship game for the second time in school history and earns an automatic bid to the upcoming PIAA tournament in the process. The No. 2 seed Rams (20-1) will travel to Hersheypark Stadium on Thursday to face No. 5 Exeter Township (17-5) for the district crown. No team from the York-Adams League has ever captured district gold.
Exeter ended York Catholic's title hopes in heart-breaking fashion in the other semifinal,10-9, in double overtime. The Irish will face Manheim Township at 5 p.m. Thursday at Lower Dauphin Middle School in the third-place match, with a state title bid on the line.
In the K-D victory, Wetzel called for the break in action with the Rams down 14-10. His team responded quickly, with Emmie Dressel scoring her third goal of the night off a restart.
She later capped the Rams’ run by working out from behind the net, twisting and turning inside the heart of the Streaks’ defense and scoring her fifth of the night to put K-D ahead for good at 16-14 with 3:32 remaining.
Dressel's goal off a restart with 10:15 left to play put K-D ahead 15-14, marking the first time the Rams held the lead since scoring 34 seconds into the game for an early 1-0 edge.
“I’m so excited, this has been our goal for years and years,” said Dressel, who finished with a nine-point night, adding four assists to her five goals. “Tonight was crazy, running our normal offense was working really well for us. Our defense held strong and we pulled it out.”
K-D made the most of its opponents' mistakes, scoring six of its goals off restarts after a Streaks infraction
Considered by most the underdog coming in, the Rams gave the Streaks all they could handle from the opening whistle. Each time it looked like Manheim Township was going to get something going, K-D would answer with a run of its own.
“There’s no four-point play in lacrosse,” Wetzel said. “Just go out there and play to the best of your ability. Get possession, be smart when you have it.”
Once the Rams were finally able to gain the upper hand, it was young-but-tested sophomore goalie Clare Boone who helped K-D move on. The Yale verbal commit made a number of her six saves down the stretch when the Streaks mounted their last gasp.
“It was really intense,” Boone said of the game’s final minutes. “I think our energy was really good, and we were just trying to stay focused and calm, because it was very intense. We were worried when they were in our bracket, but we were like ‘We can do it, this is our year to do it.’”
An 11-5 second-half edge in draw controls also helped the Rams control possession and climb back into the contest.
Morgan Bowings and Gillian Zimmerman added four goals to the victorious cause. Hannah Bracey added two goals and an assist for K-D.
No. 5 Exeter Township 10, No. 1 York Catholic 9 (2OT): The top-seeded Irish saw a number of near misses go by the wayside in the first overtime before Lexi Einsig’s goal 1:13 into the second extra session gave the Eagles the win.
“We just didn’t play smart and took too many shots we shouldn’t have taken,” Irish coach Rob Linthicum said. “We had a lead and we should have milked the clock more. We just have to pick our heads up and get back to work tomorrow night and get ready for Manheim Township on Thursday. Play our way into the state tournament the hard way.”
A normally stout unit for York Catholic all season, the Irish defense watched an 8-5 second-half lead slip away before the Irish briefly looked like they might pull it out.
Lindsey China scored her second goal of the night with 4:57 left in regulation to put York Catholic ahead 9-8 before seeing Mackenzie Anton answer for Exeter just more than a minute later.
The Irish controlled much of the opening overtime and even managed to find a couple of close opportunities in front of Eagles goalie Leah Franklin. However, Franklin was able to stop one and watch as another caromed off the cross bar.
Lindsey China finished with two goals and two assists, while Lauren China added a goal for York Catholic. Maggie Boyle, Amanda Tufano and Anna Linthicum each recorded a goal and assist for the Irish.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.