It’s shaping up to be a banner season for York-Adams girls’ lacrosse.
It's one that is starting to firmly cement the league’s place among the sports establishment outside the area.
Thursday, No. 2 Kennard-Dale (20-1) will represent the league in the District 3 championship game against No. 5 Exeter Township (17-5) at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Rams earned their spot by slaying the dragon that was No. 6 Manheim Township, 17-15, on Tuesday in a semifinal contest.
The Blue Streaks had a stranglehold on the District 3 title, winning their previous 30 district contests and claiming every one of the seven championships in the event’s history along the way. They had also beaten the Rams in that same semifinal the previous two seasons.
In fact, before beating three straight Lancaster County teams so far this year, the Rams were 1-8 against such schools in district play.
“I think it shows we’re getting where we need to be,” K-D head coach Kelly Wetzel said of the league “Being a small school, being a relative newcomer, as far as York lacrosse, to the PIAA, and having more teams that are quality based, we’re getting there. I think this is good for our program, good for our league. It gives us some more credibility outside of District 3.”
The league was also a ping of the cross bar away from having two teams in the district final, which would have guaranteed a York County champion for the first time.
However, after suffering a 10-9, double-overtime loss to No. 5 Exeter on Tuesday, No. 1 York Catholic will play in the district third-place game at 4 p.m. Thursday at Lower Dauphin Middle School. The game time for that contest was originally set for 5 p.m. before getting moved up.
Should the Irish win, the league will again achieve another first. It would be the first time the Y-A League had sent more than one team to the PIAA playoffs. It would also mark the first time York County earned two medals in district play. And it would be the first trip to the PIAA tourney in program history for York Catholic
“We’re seeing that some of the parity is decreasing between us, Kennard-Dale, Susquehannock … the gap's closing a little bit,” York Catholic head coach Rob Linthicum said after Tuesday’s tough-luck loss. “Manheim Township used to beat all of us by 10-plus, and now if they're winning, the margins are narrow. And Kennard-Dale did a good job of pulling out the win.”
Here’s a quick look at what it will take for these teams to continue to bolster the league’s profile:
Kennard-Dale vs. Exeter, Thursday, 5 p.m. Hersheypark Stadium: The Rams can’t rest on their laurels. This one won’t be as easy. K-D’s 15-6 victory at the Berks County school back on April 22 looks promising on paper, but both teams have come a long way since then.
K-D will need to take control on offense against the Eagles the way it did Tuesday to defeat the vaunted Streaks.
That starts with draw controls. The Rams were outworked 12-4 in that category in the first half of Tuesday’s win. However, their 11-5 effort in the second half was pivotal in the Rams erasing a four-goal deficit, as well as securing the victory down the stretch.
The Rams will then turn to scorers such as Emmie Dressel to make those possessions count. Dressel is on a tear, recording 16 goals and five assists thus far in district play.
Sophomore scorers Morgan Bowings and Maddie Day complement Dressel nicely. Bowings has 11 goals in district action, while Day has found the back of net nine times and assisted on three others in that same span.
Their Berks County opposition is blazing a path of its own. It is the first team from its area to play in the district title game. The Rams' defense will need to do its best to try and slow speedy Eagles’ scorer Lexi Einsig.
Einsig (10 goals) has scored at least three times in each district game this season. Her third goal Tuesday was the double-overtime winner. Mackenzie Anton has notched a hat trick in the past two games as well for the Exeter.
Should any Eagles be able to threaten the net, another sophomore standout, goalie Clare Boone, will be in their way.
“She’s a very talented young lady,” Wetzel said of Boone. “She’s an honorable mention All-American last year and I think we all see why. She’s the leader of our defense, she communicates well, she’s positive, you name it.”
York Catholic vs. Manheim Township, Thursday, 4 p.m., at Lower Dauphin Middle School: York Catholic is a team that has found success on the strength of its defensive unit. It will need to rely on that group again if the Irish are going to, as Linthicum put it after Tuesday’s heart-breaker, “play our way into the state tournament the hard way.”
Just like the Rams, the Irish are also anchored on defense by a stellar sophomore in goal.
Kirsten Lake has backstopped a defense that posted a 4.36 goals-against average during regular-season play against York-Adams teams, with Lake posting the third-best save percentage in the league for the regular season at 51.6.
The group has remained steady as the playoffs started. Beginning with the league tournament, the Irish have allowed just 45 goals in five games.
The Blue Streak enter play averaging 16.7 goals per game on the year.
Lake gave the Eagles fits at times Tuesday, stopping a number of solid chances early when Exeter built an early 2-0 lead. The net-minder refused to be rattled, limiting any further damage as her club built a 6-4 halftime advantage.
“They’ve been huge all season,” Linthicum said of his defensive players. “We had the top goals-against average in Y-A and I think second in District 3. Our defense is what’s gotten us here. We’re pretty balanced. Anybody on our offense can score.”
Helping provide that balance on offense for the Irish during this district run are seniors Lindsey China (10 goals, two assists) and Lisa Casagrande (five goals, three assists). Junior attack Anna Linthicum has seven goals and six assists over the past three games.
The Streaks feature a number of names that can fill the net in a hurry, most notably Maryn Bernhardt (14 goals in districts) and Sarah Elias (10 goals)
“Manheim Township, obviously, is the cream of the crop, even though they lost (Tuesday). Between them and Kennard-Dale, you have got to have a perfect game to beat them, as we know on the K-D side,” Coach Linthicum said. “And I know Manheim Township isn’t going to be any different.”
With lacrosse not yet being split into classes based on school size, Coach Linthicum noted that the speed of the opposition this time of year has created problems.
“These big schools have so many kids to pull from. We just don’t have the speed to run with them,” Linthicum said. “We have the sticks to play with any of them, but we just get beat on the speed. That was the key (Tuesday night).”
As good as the Irish defense is, Einsig’s speed was the slight edge that ultimately helped the Eagles move on.
Future: The league also benefits from already having a legitimate rivalry in its top ranks.
While the Rams have historically had the better of it, York Catholic has begun to close the gap since the beginning of the 2014 campaign.
Since then, the two teams have met seven times with five wins going to the Rams. However, Kennard-Dale only owns a 103-92 scoring edge in that span, with two of the contests going to overtime. They split a pair of head-to-head matchups this year and were inches away from meeting for a third time.
Their history isn’t without signature games either. In 2014, the Irish captured the school’s lone York-Adams crown in their third tilt with the Rams after dropping the two before. Kennard-Dale captured the league title this year by beating the Irish after falling to them in overtime in the regular season.
As far as a bright future for the league is concerned, one need not look much further than the programs already leading the way. These young programs have already begun to find success outside of each other and look to be set up for some time to come.
Only Lindsey China, Maura Palandro and Lisa Casagrande depart this Irish club that seems ready for sustained postseason success. The defense will return in full, now with solid postseason experience aiding their quests.
The Rams are equally young. With Boone, Bowings and Day anchoring a stout sophomore class. They’ll be led next year juniors Dressel, Claire Gamache and Gillian Zimmerman to create another formidable Kennard-Dale squad.
These young programs have already begun to find success outside of each other and are set the bar for what the countys teams can achieve. Other programs are sure to soon follow suit as the game continues to grow in our area.
A good showing Thursday will raise that bar even higher.
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org,