The York Catholic girls' lacrosse team knew it had quite a fight on its hands if it wanted to make the PIAA tournament.
Standing in its way was a District 3 third-place game against formidable former champ Manheim Township. The Blue Streaks were fresh off taking one on the chin Tuesday, losing in the semifinals to Kennard-Dale. It was their first loss in 31 district games, a run that saw them claim the first seven district titles.
The Irish knew a team with that kind of pedigree wasn't going to accept defeat easily.
With the punchy Irish giving Township all it could handle for much of the game, the Streaks resorted to a veteran fighter's tactic — they got ahead on points, took the action away by nearly stalling and let the opposition work themselves tired. They then delivered the knockout blow. The Streaks were able to eat more than six minutes of clock during a crucial second-half possession before pulling away for a 15-9 victory Thursday at Lower Dauphin Middle School.
"I told the girls 'Every single team ends their season with a loss except for the one that wins the state championship,'" York Catholic head coach Rob Linthicum said. "We gave a valiant effort and I told them to keep their heads up high. We've (increased) the parity in girls' lacrosse in District 3 and I think it's worth celebrating, even though (the loss) is disappointing."
The win gives No. 6 Manheim Township (16-7) third place in District 3 and the district's final spot in the state tournament. The loss ends a special season for the No. 1 Irish (19-3) that saw them advance to the district semifinals for the first time in program history before falling a double-overtime goal short of playing for the district crown. A win would have marked York Catholic's first PIAA appearance.
Manheim's Lucy Svetec scored the first of her two goals to give the Streaks an 11-9 cushion with 11:32 left to play. The Streaks followed that goal by winning the subsequent draw control. The Streaks then worked the ball around for nearly six minutes, running the Irish defense into exhaustion in the process, before Svetec's second goal at 5:52 began to put it away at 12-9.
The Streaks' decision to take the action away came after being on the ropes themselves. Manheim had to thrice wrestle away the lead from the Irish. Carlin Mayer's goal with 17:52 left to play gave York Catholic its third and final lead at 9-8.
York Catholic staggered Manheim early by landing the first two blows of the game. Lisa Casagrande got the first of her three goals just 47 seconds into the game. Anna Linthicum followed with the first of two goals nearly 30 second later. The Streaks tied it at 2-2 before Casagrande deftly split a pair of defenders before faking out a third and scoring to give the Irish a 3-2 lead just under five minutes in.
That lead quickly evaporated, but Amanda Tufano bounced home her only marker of the game with 1:26 left in the half and Anna Linthicum scored off a nice shot fake nearly 30 seconds later to cut the Streaks lead to 8-7 going into intermission.
"Once we got rolling in the first half, we were able to put some points up and felt comfortable at halftime," coach Linthicum said. "Their man-to-man defense did a good job against us in the second half. It came down to turnovers, their pressure and transition game. We threw a lot of balls away. I told them to beat (teams like the Streaks) you have to play an almost flawless game and you can't turn the ball over."
The Irish would have likely taken a lead into halftime had it not been for the solid play of Streaks netminder Isabella Drolet, who recorded five first-half saves. Drolet would finish with seven saves.
York Catholic goalie Kirsten Lake posted seven saves of her own. Casagrande led the Irish with three goals and five draw controls. Linthicum added two goal and an assist and Lindsey China posted two goals.
One aspect that concerned coach Linthicum entering Thursday's game was the speed that the larger schools tend to possess. In this one, that speed was exemplified by the Streaks' Sadye Walker, who was able to create havoc by frequently getting behind a stout Irish defense and finding prime scoring real estate. Walker finished five goals and teammate Sarah Elias added three more goals and an assist.
Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org.