York Catholic girls' lacrosse pulls away from Dallastown in league finale

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for coach Jim Mullen in his first season at the helm of the York Catholic girls’ lacrosse team.

Along with a change of leadership from Rob Linthicum to Mullen, the Fighting Irish graduated a slew of top performers from a squad that won the York-Adams League title to go with a runner-up finish in the District 3 Class 2A tournament. Then there were nagging injuries that kept some of the team’s standouts either sidelined or playing at less than 100 percent.

Through it all, Mullen kept a steady hand at the controls, steering the club towards another solid finish. With just one regular-season contest left on the schedule, Mullen and his girls knew a victory over Dallastown on Thursday evening would all but secure the program a berth into the York-Adams League draw.

In years past, facing the Wildcats would not prove to be too much of a chore, but this year’s Dallastown squad has been far from a pushover. And, sure enough, the visitors made Mullen sweat it out on York Catholic’s senior night.

After a back-and-forth first half saw the lead switch hands several times, the Irish were able to gain some much-needed separation over the final 25 minutes. Five-goal nights from senior Jess Daugherty — which included the attacker’s 100th career goal — and Delaney Staples helped the York Catholic girls earn a satisfying 16-11 triumph.

York Catholic against Dallastown during their girls lacrosse game in York on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

The Irish finished the Y-A slate with a 10-2 mark that likely will earn them a top-four finish and a spot in the county playoffs two weeks from now. York Catholic also improved to 12-3 overall.

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“I was so excited,” Daugherty said of reaching triple-digit goals. “I’ve been waiting awhile now to get this milestone and I tried not to over-psyche myself up about it.”

Not getting overly excited has been a hallmark of Mullen's coaching style this season. He rarely shows much emotion throughout a contest, a trait that his girls have clearly picked up on throughout the year.

“If we just calm down on offense, we play so much better,” Daugherty said. “If we don’t, we turn the ball over. It really helps us when we get a good clear, which helps our headspace. We can then just run what we want to run.”

The York Catholic attack is probably at its best when the ball is moved around in the offensive zone. With no true No. 1, Division I-caliber sniper, the Irish instead rely on a handful of girls to pile up the goals on any given night. It was Daugherty and Staples with five goals each in Thursday's win, while Katie Bullen finished with two goals and three assists.

York Catholic's Delaney Staples (32) against Dallastown during their girls lacrosse game in York on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

“We’re really versatile on offense,” Daugherty said. “Almost everyone on the field can score, which is really nice and helpful offensively.”

While Mullen is fairly stoic on the sidelines, he did allow a bit of emotion to burst out when the Irish stretched the advantage to 14-11 late in the contest. A scream and a fist pump is hardly Mullen’s style, but it was well-deserved and well-timed with less than five minutes left on the clock.

“I don’t usually get emotional like that,” Mullen said. “But when Delaney scored to make it a three-goal lead, it allowed me to relax a little bit.”

Daugherty reaching the 100-goal milestone wasn’t the only notable achievement of the night for the program. Sarah Perry notched her 100th career assist in the contest, with Mullen commemorating the occasion by giving Perry the ball with a handwritten inscription by Mullen on it.

York Catholic's Sarah Perry (33) against Dallastown's Madison Brooks (24) during their girls lacrosse game in York on Thursday, May 4, 2023.

“You might not be able to read my chicken-scratch,” Mullen said to the team, “but it’s great that Sarah got her milestone here tonight as well.”

While the York Catholic girls came out victorious, Mullen was impressed by what Dallastown coach Joe Alex has done with the program this year.

“I’m good friends with Joe,” Mullen said. “He’s a great coach. I knew it was going to be a double Alka-Seltzer kind of night tonight. His teams are really focused on being a team, where in years past they had some really good individual player but they didn’t play all that well together. He’s getting them to where they are not as overly emotional … like us.”

Alexis Federline led the Wildcats (10-5, 7-4) with five goals, while Emma Alex finished with two goals and an assist.