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Here are some of the top returning players to watch in YAIAA girls' lacrosse for the 2017 season. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com

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Kennard-Dale freshman Maria Schneider saw an opportunity and went for it.

Clare Boone was the goalie for the Rams the past two years, but she transferred to St. Paul's School for Girls in Baltimore, leaving the Rams in search of options in the net.

Schneider found out about the news while on vacation and at the urging of her father and some other coaches, began training to fill the hole.

"It's a pretty big surprise," Schneider said of being a varsity goalie for the Rams. "If you had asked me last year if I would be doing this now, I would have said you were crazy."

Schneider is making the coaches look smart with the decision, especially after Thursday night's 25-8 drubbing of Central York that improved the Rams' record to 8-0-1 overall and 7-0-1 in the division.

Schneider began playing lacrosse young, in kindergarten or first grade according to her, and spent the majority of her time as a field player. She had never been a full-time goalie until this season.

"She's done amazing and has worked hard," head coach Kelly Wetzel said. "She would be the first to tell you that even though she is starting in goal right now, every day she is pushed at practice by Jackie Mister. They push each other. Maria wouldn't be where she is without Jackie."

"I have an amazing defense. They are all seniors," Schneider said. "They are all so supportive and we mesh well together and with their help, we have been really successful so far."

It helps Schneider that the Rams' offense has been scoring goals in bunches. Four times this season, the Rams have totaled 20 or more goals in a game, all wins.

Coming into Thursday's game against Central, Kennard-Dale's Emmie Dressel collected 30 goals, and three others — Morgan Bowings, Megan Halczuk and Maddie Day — have scored 25.

"We are pretty balanced (offensively)," Wetzel said. "If you go past those first four goal scorers, we then have other girls, with 10,12,15 goals also. The girls have strengths and are playing to those strengths."

The Rams' offense ranks first on laxpower.com's PA-Central rankings with 19.13 goals per game coming into Thursday's contest. Following Thursday's victory, the Rams have scored 178 goals in nine games this year so far.

The defense has been great as well, surrendering only 6.88 goals a game heading into Thursday's contest.

"We have four seniors (Renee Gering, Claire Gamache, Brooke Siebert and Maris Allen) on defense," Wetzel said of that unit's strength. "They have been around and are pretty athletic. What they may not have in athleticism, they have knowledge wise. They understand their strengths and weaknesses."

Even after finishing 21-2 last year, including winning the District 3 tournament and advancing to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament, Wetzel expected this kind of season for the Rams.

"We returned all of our goal scorers except for one 30-goal scorer. So, we knew offensively we would be fine. We graduated two starting defenders, so it was a matter of putting the right people in place," Wetzel said.

That includes Schneider and Mister's willingness to step up into the goalie's role.

"We couldn't be where we are without their dedication and hard work," Wetzel said.

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