Dallastown boys, South Western girls advance to District 3 lacrosse semifinals

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

Three York-Adams League lacrosse teams shared the field at York Suburban for a pair of do-or-die district playoff games Thursday evening. And while one was certain to see its season come to a close, two teams did advance to the District 3 Class 3A semifinals next Tuesday.

In the opener, the Dallastown boys got off to a great start before holding off a pesky Carlisle squad for a 10-6 win. In the nightcap, the South Western girls survived another slew of cards that left them down a player against Y-A rival Red Lion to claim an 11-9 victory.

South Western's Leah Leonard (18) against Red Lion in the YAIAA girls lacrosse semi-final in Springettsbury on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

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The Wildcats (18-2) advanced to play a rubber match against rival Central York, which rolled past South Western by a 17-4 margin Thursday at home. The No. 3-seed Panthers (18-2) will face the No. 2-seed 'Cats at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Susquehannock High School with a district final berth up for grabs

The No. 7-seed Mustangs (16-5) will get No. 6 Wilson — which defeated No. 3 Cumberland Valley — in the semifinals Tuesday in Reading at a time yet to be determined. The Lions, who were the No. 2 seed in the draw, finished their terrific season with a 12-4 record and a share of the York-Adams regular season title.

Bouncing back: Nearly a week after a disastrous showing against Central York in the Y-A boys’ final, the Wildcats rebounded with a strong effort Thursday against the Thundering Herd. Dallastown jumped out to a 4-1 lead after one period and led 8-3 at the break.

The start was a complete 180 from the league final, where the Panthers took a quick 3-1 lead and never looked back en route to a commanding 17-3 victory.

“You never want to lose like that,” Dallastown attacker Griffin Pickett said. “It was a wake-up call for sure.”

Pickett and Evan Mitchell, the Wildcats' top two scorers, were battling injuries heading into the final, but both seemed to be near the top of their games Thursday. The standouts finished with four and three goals, respectively, to lead the Dallastown offense in the triumph.

Dallastown’s Griffin Pickett, left, carries the ball while Kennard-Dale’s Tyler Mack defends during boys’ lacrosse action at Dallastown Area High School in York Township, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Dallastown would win the game 19-0. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“We got back to work,” Pickett said, “and pulled through on this one.”

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With the lead, the Wildcats played a slower tempo in the second half, which resulted in just two goals. That was by design, according to head coach Scott Toman.

“We came out fired up and we were ready to go,” Toman said. “I think we got off the bus with a lot of confidence today, much like we’ve had pretty much throughout the year. Then in the second half we just kind of slowed things down.”

Thursday’s victory sends the Wildcats into the semifinals a year after falling short in the quarterfinal round.

“We lost to Cumberland Valley last year, so this if the first time we’ve been (in the semifinals),” Toman said. “So with this win, this is the farthest we’ve ever gotten in program history.”

Kennard-Dale’s Connor Wolf, left, and Jace LaMartina, right, try to stop Dallastown’s Connor Farrell during boys’ lacrosse action at Dallastown Area High School in York Township, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Dallastown would win the game 19-0. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Tuesday’s clash with the Panthers will be historic on many levels.

First, the winner will become the first York-Adams team to qualify for the district final since the league's inception in 2009.

More importantly for the Wildcats, it will be a rare chance to make amends for a bitterly disappointing performance. The 14-goal drubbing also took place at Susquehannock's field. Now Dallastown — which beat the Panthers, 7-6, on March 24 in both teams' league opener — will have an opportunity for a mulligan.

“I think the boys felt as if they didn’t give it their best effort,” Toman said of last week’s loss. “We are hoping that the next time out, we have a better showing and are more prepared for what (Central York) did. They made big changes defensively against us and we weren’t prepared for it and that’s what hurt us, so we’re hoping that we can change those things this time.”

South Western's Lexi Plesic (13) against Red Lion's Riley Watson (47) in the YAIAA girls lacrosse semi-final in Springettsbury on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Triple threat: There’s a well-known saying in sports that it’s hard to beat a good team three times, but that’s exactly what the South Western girls pulled off against Red Lion on Thursday. After winning the regular season meeting 11-8, the Mustangs beat the Lions 13-8 in the Y-A semifinals last week.

The third time produced the same result, but was the closest battle of the three as the Lions adjusted things to give the Mustangs a game.

“We played good in spurts,” South Western coach Randy Kavanaugh said, “but then we had times where we got careless with the ball.”

The Lions jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Hannah Conners to seemingly take the early momentum.

“I think Red Lion knew how to play us better this time,” Mustangs senior Lexi Plesic said. “They took the face-guard off of me and Leah (Leonard) and I think that helped them.”

Plesic played a big part in stealing the momentum away, as she scored three goals during a 6-0 run that put the Mustangs ahead for good.

“It was exciting because we were all playing as a team,” Plesic said of the run. “Everyone was scoring for us — it wasn’t just one person — so that was fun. And obviously that kind of helped us in the end.”

South Western's Leah Leonard (18) against York Catholic's Kathleen McKeague (18) during their girls lacrosse game in York on Thursday, Apr. 13, 2023.

While the South Western girls never trailed after that, the Lions rallied to make a game of it over the final 12 minutes. Back-to-back goals by Isabella Provenzano (two goals) and Savannah Quave (four goals) cut Red Lion's deficit to 11-9 with 3:51 left.

The Lions won possession off the ensuing draw and had a chance to pull within a goal, but a shot off a free position by Kara Bradley hit the crossbar before the Mustangs picked up the rebound and never gave the ball back.

“Yeah, that could have been a different ending for sure,” said Plesic, who along with Leonard led South Western with four goals. “This was a very good game.”

The Mustangs will now move on to face a Wilson team that handled them two years ago in the District 3 final by an 18-6 margin. Most of the South Western seniors remember that game, and those memories were anything but positive.

“That was rough,” Plesic said. “I think we weren’t as strong a couple of years ago (as) we are this year. I think we’ve overcome a lot this year, so I think we can give Wilson a pretty good game.”

Red Lion's Savannah Quave (16) on goal against Spring Grove's Macey Baum (35) during their girls lacrosse game in Red Lion on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

While the Mustangs are moving on, the Lions saw their brilliant season come to a disappointing end.

“It just took a little too long for us to get started (with our comeback),” Red Lion coach Meg Welker said. “We’ve made it this far because of all of the hard work and hustle that they’ve put in all season long. All season we’ve kind of been a second-half team, but unfortunately our push (tonight) just didn’t come soon enough.”

Welker and her team will remember a season in which they shared the program's first-ever Y-A regular-season title with the Mustangs, York Catholic and Susquehannock. The five seniors who helped elevate the program to the top of the league standings will be sorely missed by Welker and the underclassman alike.

“It’s just so emotional right now,” Welker said. “They were incredible. They were all leaders and two of them (Connors, who scored three goals Thursday, and Julia Bradley) are going on to play D-II lacrosse. They were all just incredible young women and they’ll all do great things down the road.”