South Western girls' lacrosse looking to get over the hump in 2023

The Mustangs have been competitive for years, but their seniors are seeking redemption.

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

The South Western girls’ lacrosse program has steadily risen through the local ranks in recent seasons. But the final steps toward titles are often the toughest to take.

The Mustangs broke through and reached the District 3 Class 3A finals two years ago. They went 17-4 last season, finished third in the York-Adams League and made the district quarterfinals. They’re 34-8 across the last two campaigns, and the losses haven’t been by much.

“We lost four games last year by a total of 10 goals — we lost one game by five, one game by three and two games by one,” head coach Randy Kavanaugh said. “So we’re a competitive program.”

Kavanaugh’s team is close to where it wants to be. He hopes this is the year it beats the door down.

South Western's Lexie Plesic (13) protects the ball during the 2021 District 3 Class 3A championship game against Wilson at Central Dauphin Middle School in Harrisburg. Wilson won that game 18-6. Dawn J. Sagert photo

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The York-Adams League has 13 girls’ lacrosse teams, all playing in one division. South Western has had its way with the majority of the field, but the Mustangs still finished behind York Catholic and Susquehannock last year. They lost to the league champion Irish by three and suffered two one-goal losses to the Warriors, including in the county playoffs.

After a 15-7 win over Carlisle to start the district tournament, South Western bowed out of the postseason with a 12-7 loss to Hempfield in the quarterfinals. One more win would have secured a return trip to states.

The 2023 squad will be spearheaded by senior midfielder and reigning York-Adams first team all-star Lexie Plesic, as well as fellow seniors Leah Leonard (an all-county midfield honorable mention in 2022) and defender Morgan Schneider. All three were key pieces for that district runner-up team, and they’re eager to get their redemption and leave an enduring legacy.

“The seniors, we have been playing for a long time together,” said Schneider, who’s also played club lacrosse with Plesic since middle school. “We have a lot of chemistry and we’ll be leading the team, so I think we can take it in the right direction. And the younger girls are also really good and they have a lot of potential.”

The Mustangs will also lean on junior attacker and first team all-star Kloey Batchellor, as well as a large sophomore class. At spring sports media day earlier this month, Kavanaugh suggested South Western may have six sophomores, two juniors and four seniors in its lineup. 

“Our offensive chemistry right now is good, but with new girls coming in that haven’t been playing with us for as long, I think there’s still work that needs to be done there,” Plesic said before practices began. “But overall, I feel like we’re a strong team. We’re all conditioned really well and our stick stills are very good.”

Spring practice officially started March 6, and the Mustangs played a pair of scrimmages last week in advance of their official season opener this Friday at New Oxford. The ensuing seven weeks will have plenty of challenges in store.

Kavanaugh made a point to ramp up the difficulty of South Western’s non-league schedule this season, and it shows. The Mustangs will play Governor Mifflin, Hershey and Hempfield — all teams they’ve seen in recent district postseasons — during the spring, among other talented opponents. On top of that, their meetings with York Catholic and Susquehannock are both on the road.

South Western's Randy Kavanaugh coaches during the District 3 Class 3A championship game in 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“We want to play the best we can,” Kavanaugh said. “All the games aren’t gimmes — we have to work for them — but that will make us stronger as a team.”

The players are excited about the shift as well. Most of the Mustangs also play lacrosse outside of school, and they know the best club teams aren’t looking for cupcakes. Against a high school schedule that still features some less talented squads at the bottom of the league, maximizing competitive reps figures to benefit the group.

“I think it’ll really force us to pay attention and not be complacent,” Leonard said. “It’ll force us to have a high lax IQ and to not just be like, ‘I’m just gonna run this down because I want to.’ We have to do things for a certain reason, and this might be a year with growing pains, but it’ll be very good for our future and it’s a good investment for the future of our program.”

Kavanaugh isn’t so sure about those growing pains, though. He’s confident this team, when in sync and at full strength, can beat anyone in its way. 

“I don’t think it’s a learning curve,” he said. “We have the talent — that’s why we’re (scheduling) the games.”