GIRLS' LACROSSE: Reloaded Kennard-Dale Rams ready to defend league championship

Elijah Armold
  • Kennard-Dale is the defending York-Adams League girls' lacrosse champion.
  • The Rams finished 22-3-1 last season and reached the PIAA championship game.
  • Susquehannock, York Catholic and Red Lion are among the teams that could contend for a Y-A crown.

It’s no secret that the Kennard-Dale Rams have dominated the York-Adams girls’ lacrosse league since its inception.

Starting in 2011, the first year of the league championship tournament, the Rams have won every Y-A title except one.

They’re currently riding a streak of three straight league crowns entering the 2018 campaign.

The Rams have also experienced success at the District 3 and PIAA levels, winning a District 3 crown in 2016 and advancing to the PIAA state title game last year.

Each year, the players naturally change, but the results stay the same.

“I think the thing that makes us stronger is we practice as a JV and a varsity together,” K-D senior midfielder Morgan Bowings said at spring sports media day. “We’re not separate teams, and it helps to grow the players to where they’re ready to play varsity.”

Head coach Kelly Wetzel agreed, noting it’s the experience of facing the league’s best on a daily basis that’s responsible for the program's ability to overcome the annual attrition of graduation. It’s also a notion he’ll need to hold true for his 2018 Rams.

“We’ve had a lot of younger players who understand the way we want to play. They see it every day in practice and that helps,” Wetzel said. “We had a lot of players last year get varsity experience, so now it’s just getting them ready for 50 minutes of varsity. It’s just developing team chemistry and getting better.”

Kennard-Dale's Megan Halczuk is defended by York Catholic's Lauren China last season. Both players are expected to return this season and play key roles for their teams. Bill Kalina photo

The 2018 Rams: Only four starters return from a team that finished 22-3-1 overall, including an 11-0-1 mark in league play. After claiming the York-Adams League championship in 2017, the Rams posted runner-up finishes at both the District 3 Class 2-A and PIAA 2-A levels.

K-D became the first non-District 1 program to reach the girls’ PIAA title game.

Leading the way this season for the Rams will be returning Y-A first-team all-star Bowings. The Rams see another Day helping lead the attack this season in the return of second-team attacker Maddie Day.

In the midfield, K-D has second-team all-star Megan Halczuk coming back. The NCAA Division I Winthrop recruit will have little time for rest. She recently helped the K-D basketball team reach the second round of the PIAA 4-A playoffs.

“We’ve controlled the draw for some years, and that’s been the key for us to have possession and to score goals and limit the other team’s opportunities,” Wetzel said. “That should continue this year with Megan (Halczuk) and Morgan (Bowings).”

Defensively, the Rams will need to replace Defender of the Year Brooke Siebert, as well as first-team defenders Claire Gamache and Renee Gering.

K-D will have some experience in the most important position defensively, however, when Maria Schneider returns for her sophomore year in goal. Schneider fronts a group of battle-tested underclassmen who gained valuable playing time a year ago. Others have been sharpened by practicing against some of the league’s best on a daily basis in preparation for their varsity debuts.

Kennard-Dale goalie Maria Schneider, left, looks to pass the ball away from Susquehannock's Kenna Hancock during PIAA Class 2-A girls' lacrosse state semifinal action at Papermaker Stadium in Spring Grove, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Scheider returns this year for the Rams. YORK DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

The Rams lead a contingent of four teams that many throughout the league feel will be the main contenders for the league title.

Here’s a quick look at the three others, as well as a glance at the remainder of the league.

Susquehannock: The Warriors are certainly no stranger to the Rams. The two have been meeting in crucial contests for the past three seasons. It was the Warriors who claimed a District 3 2-A title last year by defeating K-D in the title game.

The Rams, however, got revenge when the two met again in the PIAA 2-A semifinals. Susquehannock has also suffered losses to K-D in the league title game in 2015 and in the league semifinals in 2016.

Of all the contenders this season, however, the Warriors are perhaps the most experienced. Nine starters return from a team that posted a 22-4 record with an 11-1 mark in league play.

Among that tested group are all-star names such as first-team attacker Kenna Hancock and second-team attacker Emma Stiffler. League honorable mention goaltender Sam McGuire will be back, too.

Wetzel said McGuire might be the best goaltender in the league.

Susquehannock and Kennard-Dale battle during the PIAA Class 2-A girls' lacrosse state semifinal at Papermaker Stadium in Spring Grove, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Kennard-Dale would win the game 15-7. Both teams are expected to be powers again this season. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York Catholic: The Irish are another team that would love to get another crack at the Rams in a meaningful match-up.

York Catholic has fallen to K-D in the league championship each of the past two seasons. The Irish are the league’s only other tournament champ since the event began in 2011, capturing the crown in 2014.

The Irish are led by 2017 Y-A Coach of the Year Rob Linthicum and posted a 16-4-1 record in 2017 with a 10-1-1 league mark.

One of Linthicum’s leaders last season was his daughter, Anna, who was named Y-A Attacker of the Year. But with Anna now competing at East Stroudsburg University, coach Linthicum will look to a pair of seniors in second-team all-star attacker Sarah Mazzur and honorable mention midfielder Lauren China.

York Catholic's Sarah Mazzur battles for the ball with a host of Susquehannock defenders during the York-Adams girls' lacrosse semifinals at Dallastown High School, Wednesday May 10, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

Along with fellow senior midfielder Carlin Mayer, that trio looks to be the source of offensive success for the Irish.

“Our biggest building block this year is on the defensive end,” Linthicum said. “We’ve been really strong defensively for the past five, six, seven years. But we don’t have a single starter returning on defense this year. So that will be our focus early.”

Thankfully, the Irish feature the return of Y-A Goalie of the Year Kirsten Lake to provide a steadying force.

That new Irish defense will be tested early. York Catholic welcomes Susquehannock on Friday, March 23, in a season opener before hosting the Rams on Tuesday, March 27.

Red Lion: The Lions join the "contenders" group after a promising season in 2017 that included a 9-8 overall record and a 7-5 league mark.

Red Lion will likely lean on returning first-team all-star attacker Peyton Shima. She is one of eight returning starters for the Lions. They’ll also look for production from returning honorable mention attacker Sara Simms.

On the defensive side, the Lions will have to deal with the loss of second-team defender Mackenzie Ehrbaker and honorable mention goalie Larissa Herbert.

The schedule for Red Lion is book-ended with tests from the league’s top teams. The Lions will first get an early idea of what they’ve got when they travel to K-D on Friday, March 23 to open the year.

League play wraps up for the Lions on May 3 with a trip to Glen Rock to take on Susquehannock.

In the mix: There's another group of teams hoping to get in the league mix and possibly make a little noise in District 3 play.

South Western (11-7, 7-5) is a senior-heavy squad looking to reach new heights. Also in the mix are Central York (8-8, 6-6), Dallastown (8-9, 6-6) and Eastern York (11-6-1, 7-5).

Projects in progress: Based on their finishes last season, and what lies ahead on the league slate, a few teams may find trouble making serious headway in the standings.

The group includes New Oxford (11-8, 6-6), West York (5-12, 3-9), Spring Grove (4-13, 2-10), Dover (4-11, 1-11) and York Suburban (2-12, 0-12).

Reach Elijah Armold at