After pulling off the biggest upset in District 3 girls' lacrosse history on Tuesday night by knocking off seven-time defending champion Manheim Township, the hardest thing that Kennard-Dale head coach Kelly Wetzel had to do was get his team re-focused for one more game.
It would've been easy for the Rams to act like Tuesday's win was the ultimate achievement, but the only problem was that they still had one more game to finish the job.
On Thursday, at Hersheypark Stadium, the Rams did just that, dispatching Exeter Township, 12-8, to capture the program's first-ever District 3 title.They also became the first school to win the championship besides Manheim Township.
"It's a great feeling," Wetzel said. "Honestly, I've waited nine years for this, so it's awesome. But, I would've liked us to play better at the end, but we'll take it."
The tense ending that Wetzel was referring to came after his team held a 12-4 lead with just under 12 minutes to play in the second half. The Eagles went on a 4-0 run to close the gap to 12-8 and make things interesting coming down the stretch. Two huge saves by junior goalie Clare Boone, however, sniffed out any chance that Exeter had of completing a comeback and helped seal the monumental victory for K-D.
From the outset, the Rams looked like a team ready to complete a mission. They raced out to a quick 4-0 lead in the game's opening five minutes before Exeter answered with two goals of its own. K-D would then go on a 4-1 run to close out the half and take an 8-3 lead into the break, firmly dominating the game.
Sophomore Morgan Bowings had three goals by halftime and then came out and continued to own the attacking half of the field for the Rams. She scored K-D's first two goals of the half to help it build a 10-4 advantage, which then got pushed to 12-4 with a third goal by Maddie Day and Emmie Dressel's second of the day.
That was all the offense the Rams would need.
"We had a lot of individuals that played well," Wetzel said. "It's not that they played bad as a team, but if we don't, we're not going to go very far."
Bowings finished with a game-high five goals and two assists, while Day added three goals and an assist. Dressel had a two-goal, one-assist performance, while Claire Gamache and Megan Halczuk also added goals.
"We were very focused," Bowings said about the team's bus ride to the stadium. "We were very excited and we were ready to play."
In goal, Boone came up with 12 saves, none bigger than the two she made in the final five minutes to halt the Eagles' 4-0 run.
"The lead helped with my confidence," she said. "We just wanted it so bad. We came this far, we couldn't lose it at the end."
Not only is the district title historical for the girls' lacrosse program, but for K-D, it's also the school's first district title in any sport since 2001.
The trip to the title game was the Rams' second in program history. They lost to the Blue Streaks in 2013.
Now, K-D will enter the state tournament as the top seed out of District 3, In the opening round of the state playoffs, the Rams will face the third-place team from District 7.
Even with the victory still fresh in his mind, Wetzel wasn't shy about critiquing his team's performance on Thursday, knowing that the players can take their game to another level, which they will need to do in order to make the state tournament run a long one.
"Today they were good enough to win, but not good enough to do what we want to do," he said.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org