HERSHEY — On a local level, the Kennard-Dale girls' lacrosse program has long been the cream of the crop.
K-D has won five of the six York-Adams League titles and is the only team to ever compete in the state tournament.
Yet, once the Rams escaped the small pond of York County, they could never quite string together a championship run, not at the District 3 level and certainly not on a state scale.
For the last three years, the Rams were always stopped short of their district title goals by Manheim Township, the program that won the first seven District 3 girls' lacrosse titles. Until this year.
On Tuesday night, K-D exorcised its demons by defeating the Blue Streaks to advance to Thursday night's title game. There, the Rams completed their mission, capturing their first District 3 crown with a 12-8 win over Exeter Township at Hersheypark Stadium.
But, despite how good K-D was in past years, and considering the quality talent it's had come through the program — Morgan Day and Lindsey Duty are just a couple of names that come to mind — it wasn't any of those teams that could achieve what this year's team did. Those teams always came up a little short. This team finished the job. But why? How?
"A lot of individual talent. A lot of defensive talent," head coach Kelly Wetzel said. "And Clare (Boone) in cage makes up for a lot of our mistakes. Again, I think we're faster, I thought this is the fastest team we've ever had at Kennard-Dale, on top of the talent with our sticks."
In past years, the team was centered on the standout Day, who holds the national high school scoring record and currently plays on the NCAA Division I level at St. Francis. There were complementary pieces around her, but for the most part, she was the main scoring threat for K-D.
However, now those complementary pieces have aged a year or two and make up a balanced attack, midfield and defensive unit. Day's sister, Maddie, is in her second year starting for the Rams as just a sophomore and is joined by junior Emmie Dressel and senior Hannah Bracey on attack. In the midfield is senior Kelsey Glenn, juniors Claire Gamache and Gillian Zimmerman, sophomore Morgan Bowings and freshman Megan Halczuk. Defense is where the Rams are really experienced, with seniors Bailey Sisler and Katie Kincaid and junior Renee Gering. And of course, the sophomore Boone is in goal.
All of those pieces came together perfectly this year.
"I feel like because we lost players, we had to step up our game," Maddie Day said. "And we knew we had to come together as a team and work harder to progress and that just made us want to win more."
Now the scary thing for the rest of District 3 is that this same Rams team could be coming back for seconds a year from now.
Not only have the players experienced the sweet taste of victory, but the same core will return for their junior and senior seasons. Sure, K-D will lose six players to graduation, but the majority of its starters will return. Then there's the young crop of current freshmen and incoming freshmen who are waiting to make their impact felt on the varsity level.
The Rams finally put together a complete team good enough to capture a District 3 title. Now, they look like they could be a legit threat to repeat in a year.
"(Repeating) is definitely going to be our goal next year," Boone said. "This feels so good, so obviously we're going to want to get back here. That's what we're going to be working for."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.