Red Lion girls' lacrosse knocking on door of surprise league title

The Lions improved to 9-1 in league action with Friday's 16-13 comeback win over New Oxford.

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

RED LION — The Red Lion girls’ lacrosse team flew somewhat under the radar this season while the York-Adams League's usual suspects remained in the mix. But after missing out on the county playoffs a year ago, the Lions were motivated to take a step forward and make a statement in 2023.

And have they ever.

A nail-biting 16-13 victory Friday evening against New Oxford improved the Lions to 9-1 in the league with two more regular-season clashes left, against Kennard-Dale and Eastern York. If the Red Lion girls take care of business against the Golden Knights and Rams, they would earn the program its first-ever York-Adams regular-season crown.

Red Lion's Hannah Connors (19) against Spring Grove's Kendall Smith (6) during their girls lacrosse game in Red Lion on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

“We had practice the other day in the gym,” Red Lion coach Meg Welker said, “and the girls just kept saying, ‘We want a banner.’”

To do so in a league where York Catholic, Susquehannock and South Western have dominated throughout the past half-decade or so would be quite an accomplishment. Even some of the Red Lion girls themselves would have been surprised by this record at the start of the campaign.

“Early in the season, I don’t think we saw it like that,” senior attacker Hannah Connors said. “But after we beat Susquehannock (on April 4) we started to realize that we actually have a chance.”

The Lions followed that up with another victory over York Catholic, giving the Red Lion seniors a pair of wins over those programs for the first time in their high school careers.

Unforgettable moments: For Connors, the triumph over the Irish is one she won’t soon forget. With the score deadlocked with 90 seconds left, the Lions were able to run the clock down under 30 before Connors scored what would be the game-winner.

“That was nerve-racking, for sure,” Connors said. “Last year we had a similar chance like that to make the county playoffs and I missed it, so it felt really good to make one this year.”

Connors also played a big part in her team’s victory Friday. The senior scored four goals to go along with two assists to help the home team erase an 11-10 deficit midway through the second half.

Those points helped Connors eclipse 250 for her career in the triumph, although the senior standout was unaware of the milestone before being told after the game.

Room to improve: New Oxford fell to 8-6 overall and 6-5 in league play with the loss, sitting one spot outside of the District 3 Class 3A playoff picture at No. 13 in the power rankings (Red Lion is No. 2). While the visitors did their part in taking the early lead, Welker thought the Lions aided the Colonials — especially in the first half — with some sloppy and uncharacteristically poor play.

Red Lion's Grace Howard (44) against Spring Grove during their girls lacrosse game in Red Lion on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

“New Oxford played great,” Welker said, “but that was not the team that I’m used to seeing out there in the first half. We didn’t have great passing out in the midfield and we weren’t on our toes as much as I think we needed to be.”

The Lions held New Oxford scoreless over the game's final 8:17 with the aid of some nifty saves from goalie Grace Howard. Howard stopped the Colonials twice with her team down a player in the final two minutes.

While Friday’s victory didn’t secure a title or even clinch a league playoff berth, it did further validate the Lions as one of the top teams in the league hierarchy. One more victory clinches both a playoff berth and at least a share of the regular season title, two feats that have never been accomplished in the program’s history.

“We had a great season last year,” Welker said. “We just missed out on making counties, but we made districts and I think that helped get our confidence up for this year. The girls had confidence in each other and we were ready to go.”