MILLERSVILLE — Through the first two rounds of the District 3 Class 2-A girls' lacrosse tournament, Susquehannock had yet to receive a challenge from either of its two opponents.
For about the first 20 minutes of Monday's semifinal contest against No. 4 seed Hershey, the top-seeded Warriors seemed to finally have met their match — an opponent worthy of making them sweat out a game over the full 50 minutes. Then, the final 30 minutes played out like Susquehannock's first two games.
A huge scoring run to close out the first half and begin the second half put the Warriors in control and they pulled away from the Trojans, 18-10, to advance to Wednesday's championship game. Susquehannock will be one half of an all-York County final after No. 2 Kennard-Dale knocked off No. 3 York Catholic in the other semifinal, 13-8.
"We came out of halftime and it was 10-7 and, it's kind of ironic because we were talking about slowing it down and making really disciplined decisions," Warriors' head coach Steve Marshner said. "Then, we got on a roll and got a couple really good looks at the goal. We won the ball at the draws, came down and we ran our offense and we got four or five straight off of that run and it kind of took the momentum away a little bit (from Hershey)."
The run actually began late in the first half after Hershey (16-4) took a 7-6 lead. At the time, it was the fourth different lead in the game, with neither side holding more than a one-goal advantage. However, Susquehannock (19-3) started dominating draw controls after goals and gaining possession, scoring on four consecutive possessions to close out the first half and carry a 10-7 lead into the break.
The same continued out of the half, with the run extending to 11 unanswered goals by the Warriors, to not only open up a comfortable cushion, but putting a running clock into effect, up 17-7.
"Without the draw, no one's going to get the ball," senior midfielder Rachel Marshner said. "So, you win the draw, you have it on offense, you have the time to set up, score, get touches and your defense isn't working and we're giving them a break. Offense is the best defense, so winning draws was the most important part of the game."
It's an all-around effort from the midfielders to gain that possession. Gena Speights takes the draw controls and either flips the ball high to try to win it herself, or will try to launch it to either side, hoping that either Marshner or Riley Roeder will come up with it. More often than not, one of the three did, with Roeder coming up with 11 draw controls, an incredibly high figure that played a huge role in Susquehannock breaking open the contest.
The Trojans did score three of the game's final four goals, but most of them were on counter attacks, while the Warriors were content in just holding the ball to waste time.
On a scoring roll: The 18 goals in the game were the fewest Susquehannock has scored in its three district games. Entering the day, the Warriors netted 50 through their first two games and are now up to 68, or an average of 22.7 goals per contest. It's an experienced offense with plenty of juniors and seniors running the show, but the attack hasn't been this consistent all year until this tournament.
"We're so well-balanced," Steve Marshner said. "And we're starting to get in a groove. To some degree, we took one on the chin when we only scored five (in the York-Adams League tournament semifinal loss to York Catholic). We came back with a vengeance and we're getting everybody involved."
The balanced offense was certainly on display on Monday. Rachel Marshner led the show with six goals and three assists, while Speights, Roeder and Kenna Hancock each had three. Hancock also had three assists.
Rams next: Awaiting Susquehannock will be the Rams, the reigning Y-A League regular-season, league tournament and District 3 champions. K-D won the regular-season meeting between the two sides, 15-12, at Susquehannock. The Warriors are searching for their first-ever district crown, while the Rams will be looking for their second and in repeat fashion. The championship game is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at Hersheypark Stadium.
By the time the Warriors finished off their win, the result of the other semifinal wasn't finished, so Susquehannock didn't know who its opponent would be in the final. But, that hardly mattered to Rachel Marshner.
"If we could play both, we want to play both," she said.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.