Defending league and district champion Kennard-Dale tops the list of the YAIAA's best programs in 2017. Jim Seip,


It's May and there is still no clear picture of the hierarchy in the YAIAA this season.

Oh sure, we know the top three teams in the league. Yet, those top three teams have all managed to knock each other off, even if one outcome ended up being marked down officially as a tie.

The next five teams in the league have also managed to beat each other up. All of these teams in the mix for fourth place could make a case for inclusion in the top five.

"It’s really close," Susquehannock coach Steve Marshner said of the top teams in the league. "When the (YAIAA) tournament comes around, I think anyone can win."

So expect the unexpected as the season winds down.

5. South Western (7-4)

Five teams are still shuffling for the fourth-through-ninth spots in the league, and the Mustangs are definitely in the middle of the hunt. South Western lost to Kennard-Dale, Susquehannock and York Catholic. And the Mustangs are coming off a difficult 14-13 loss at Central on Thursday night, but it's tough to argue with the rest of the Mustangs' body of work this season.

They entered Friday in the eighth spot in the District 3 Class 3A power rankings, the top YAIAA squad in the big-school playoff picture.

4. Eastern York (10-4)

The Golden Knights have suffered a couple recent lopsided losses to the league's top teams. There's no shame in that. Eastern has already proven it belongs among the top five.

"We all came out strong," Eastern's Bri Pfeiffer said earlier this month. "We are a very well-rounded team.

"The past few seasons have been pretty rocky, but w'eve been improving each season. I was very confident coming into this season that our team was going to be well-rounded as far as skill set."

Eastern York rattled off six consecutive league wins to open the season. And despite not being blessed with great numbers, the Knights have managed to pick up quality wins against Central York, New Oxford and Red Lion.

"I definitely believe (the start to the season) was a huge win for us, because in the past the most wins we've had in a season was five," Eastern's Kylie Nikolaus said.

"As a team I feel we've won so much, and that was amazing for me to see."

3. York Catholic (9-2-1)

Here's where things get tricky: The Irish lost to Susquehannock, 12-11, and defeated Kennard-Dale in double-overtime. But the double-overtime win was later ruled a tie, since regular-season games must officially end after the first overtime. The Irish also dropped a 12-8 loss to District 3 powerhouse Manheim Township, who currently sits in the No. 2 spot in the District 3 big-school power rankings.

Despite an 0-2-1 start, the Irish have done nothing but win since then.

"We don't have a really deep bench, so we had 12 players out there we could really count on," York Catholic's Anna Linthicum said. "Now as the season has gone on, we've been able to get the other girls to really work and realize that they have an opportunity. They are all skilled enough, they are all good enough. I think it's a confidence thing, they have to believe they can do it. And when they get out there it's really showed in the last few games ... getting the wins." 

The Irish have proven they are one of the top teams in the league. The argument could be made they deserve the No. 1 spot on this list, in part because they are the only team to get the best of Kennard-Dale — even if  it didn't ultimately count in the standings.

"It's frustrating," Linthicum said earlier this month. "We all agreed to play the way we did, and the refs signed the books and everything.. ... Two days later, to take it back was really tough.

"The book shows we ended in a tie, but I think that did put a fire under us and motivate us."

2. Susquehannock (12-2)

The Warriors still have a chance to prove they are the best team in the YAIAA. They bagged a 12-11 victory against York Catholic to open the season. The Warriors' only setbacks came during an early-season, 15-12, setback to Kennard-Dale and a 9-8 overtime loss to Reservoir (Md.) on the road.

"The way we look at is we had our shot at Kennard-Dale, and we didn't play well," Marshner said.

But Susquehannock could earn another shot at the Rams.

Kennard-Dale and York Catholic have had a stranglehold on the YAIAA tournament title, but Susquehannock could be the one to end that streak. And though Marshner isn't content with the play of the team just yet, he recognizes the improvement the program has made.

"Speed on defense was the biggest thing we changed since 2013," Marshner said. "If we can play with our feet, that's a huge key.

"Our offense is ahead of our defense, but we're building on defense every single day."

1. Kennard-Dale (11-0-1)

The defending league and district champs have earned the top spot this season, even with that one tie.

The Rams still sit in the No. 1 spot in the YAIAA and District 3 Class 2A power rankings.

They've dominated almost every opponent. Only three teams — Susquehannock, York Catholic and Kennett — have kept within 10 goals of the Rams this season. The good news for lacrosse fans is the Rams could see some of the opponents down the road in the postseason, and that promises to be some can't-miss action.

Honorable mention: Central York, Dallastown, New Oxford and Red Lion.

Big games on slate

May 2: Central York at New Oxford
May 2: Eastern York at West York
May 4: Red Lion at Susquehannock
May 4: South Western at Eastern York
May 4: Susquehannock at Red Lion
May 5: Kennard-Dale at Hershey
May 6: Hempfield at Susquehannock


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