HERSHEY — Susquehannock girls' lacrosse coach Steve Marshner knew he was going to sound a little cliché saying it, but he couldn't think of any other way to describe the feeling.
Heading into Wednesday's meeting with Kennard-Dale in the District 3 Class 2-A championship game, the Warriors had never beaten the Rams. There were close encounters, but every single time, K-D found a way to come out on top.
So, when Susquehannock finally edged the Rams, 13-12, at Hersheypark Stadium to win the program's first-ever district crown, and secure the program's first-ever win over its York-Adams League rival, the moment was almost too surreal.
"It's almost stupid to say it's storybook, but we lost in overtime five years ago, we haven't played our best games against them and we waited until the most dramatic time to get our first win, which is OK with me," Marshner said. "Right about now, all the consecutive losses that we had are kind of wiped away and now we're 1 for 1."
If the end result felt like a storybook for Marshner, then for much of the game, the script looked eerily similar to every other previous meeting.
K-D held the lead for much of the evening, and every time the Warriors would get within striking distance, the Rams had an answer. It wasn't until there were 6 minutes, 13 seconds remaining that senior midfielder Rachel Marshner scored the game-winning goal to give Susquehannock its first and only lead of the game. Just before that, it was her goal that tied the game for just the second instance at 12-12.
"Winning in this fashion at Hersheypark, it's crazy," Rachel Marshner said. "We're just all filled with emotion. It's awesome."
After Marshner gave her team the lead, the Warriors were content to just milk the clock. They won possession on the ensuing draw control and ran off time, which felt like an eternity for pretty much everyone on the Susquehannock sideline. Then, with just under three minutes to play, the Warriors were handed a gift when the refs carded Rams' midfielder Gillian Zimmerman for a very questionable dangerous play foul, giving Susquehannock a player advantage for the next two minutes.
However, K-D killed off the penalty and went on to force a turnover, giving itself one final chance to tie the game and force overtime. Up to that point in the tournament, both teams were prolific in their offenses, combining to score 131 goals through the first three rounds. So, it's ironic that the championship came down to one final defensive stand by the Warriors to win the championship.
"When it's a big rivalry like this, the score isn't going to be large. It's going to be really close and a small amount of goals," Susquehannock sophomore Kenna Hancock said. "So, it came down to defense and how we moved the ball on offense."
K-D starts fast: The start of the game couldn't have gone better for the Rams, opening the game with four consecutive goals. The rest of the first half played out with the Warriors gradually chipping away at the deficit, eventually closing out the first half on a 3-0 run to tie the score at 7-7 heading into the break.
However, K-D scored five of the first seven goals to begin the second half to regain a 12-9 advantage, but saw Susquehannock storm back one final time, ultimately ending the game on a 4-0 run to grab the win and prevent the Rams from repeating as district champions.
"It comes down to the little things and we had opportunities and we did not execute. That's what it is," K-D coach Kelly Wetzel said.
Marshner led the Warriors with five goals, while Gena Speights added four goals and Hancock finished with three goals and three assists. For the Rams, Morgan Bowings had five goals and an assist, while Megan Halczuk finished with three goals, Emmie Dressel tallied two goals and two assists, Maddie Day chipped in with two goals and Zimmerman dished out three assists.
The next step for both teams is the state tournament, where K-D (17-2-1) is looking to build off of its quarterfinal appearance last year.
Meanwhile, Susquehannock (20-3) is entering it with loads of momentum. Even had they lost the championship game, Steve Marshner is convinced his Warriors would've been ready for the next step, but entering off a win instead of a loss will only grow the confidence in his team.
"Either way, me personally, I would've been confident going in with a win or a loss," he said. "...But, a win, now we're rolling. Ever since we lost that game in the (Y-A League) semifinals, where we didn't show up, we're rolling now and we're playing well. Since that game, since the captains had a team meeting, we've been playing differently."
York Catholic 17, Hershey 5: At Lower Dauphin, the Lady Irish gave York County a sweep of the top three spots in the District 3 Class 2-A field with an easy win over Hershey in the third-place game. No. 3 seed York Catholic improved to 16-3-1, while No. 4 seed Hershey fell to 16-5. Both teams had already clinched state playoff berths.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.