Kennard-Dale has set the standard in YAIAA girls' lacrosse, winning the league championship in each of the sport's first five years of varsity existence.
Last year, the Rams made their longest postseason run, all the way to the PIAA quarterfinals, where they lost to eventual state champion Harriton. K-D coach Kelly Wetzel said at the time he felt the YAIAA was only getting better and such a run was just the beginning — not only for Kennard-Dale, but also other league teams.
Here is a look at where those teams stand entering 2014:
South Western (17-3, 10-0 in 2013) has won four straight championships in Division I and returns Millersville-bound senior Callie Kavanaugh, plus sophomore goalkeeper Laura Silver. Coach Jim Kopenhaver will usher in new players as he replaces standouts Sydney Szparaga, who left for Siena, and Jess Kopenhaver and Amy Spigelmyer, who also were lost to graduation.
Red Lion (7-10, 6-3) finished second in the division last year but graduated three of its top players: Jenny Smith, Raquel Rich and Abbie Miller.
Dallastown (5-10, 4-5) brings back senior midfielder Kayla Thomas and junior Alyssa Layton, a midfielder/attacker. First-year coach Rachel Davis also will lean on senior defender Megan Anderson, junior attacker Lindsey Ellis and junior goalie Mary Eckert. All three bring experience for this Wildcats squad, which finished tied with Central York (5-8, 4-5) in last season's Division I standings. Last year's pack included Spring Grove (5-10, 5-4), which returns goalie Amanda Craver for her fourth year as a starter.
New Oxford (1-13, 0-10) returns senior attacker Tiffany Brzenk, who earned honorable mention all-league considerations. Coach Jessica McIntyre said she expects a quicker team off the draw and an improved defense behind senior Jaide Litzelman and junior Ellie Arthur.
Kennard-Dale (23-3, 10-0) lost its all-time leading scorer in Nicole Black, who is now at La Salle after 240 career goals. The Rams return junior midfielder Morgan Day, who should challenge Black's record. She currently has 190 career goals and is flanked by junior midfielder Lyndsey Duty (108 career goals).
Goalie Emily Deaver takes over for graduated Alana Pietra on a full-time basis and has a pair of experienced defenders in front of her. All-YAIAA performer Abi Pietra is a three-year starter and Kylie Hornbarger enters her fourth year as a starter.
Again, the Rams should receive a stiff challenge from York Catholic (14-5, 8-2). The Fighting Irish graduated an experienced player in Alexis China, but coach Rob Linthicum welcomes back senior Lindsay Givens, a LaSalle recruit on offense, and Jess Mazzur, a senior St. Francis recruit on defense. Senior midfielder Sarah Gabriele and junior Shannon Moore, a Kennesaw State commit, also are among nine players who started at times for the Irish. Goalkeeping duties are up for grabs for sophomore Domenica Shellenberger and freshman Anna Linthicum.
Division II's depth doesn't end with last season's top two teams, who again played for the league tournament title. West York (11-6, 6-4) brings back Sara Sweitzer, who scored 81 goals on 106 attempts last season. She could see more attempts this year as the Bulldogs look to replace the production of graduated Allee Ilgenfritz, who's now at La Salle.
In addition, Susquehannock (8-7, 5-6) nearly gave Kennard-Dale its first Division II loss in school history last season. The Warriors pushed the Rams to overtime in the regular-season finale. This season's squad will have back its top scorer in junior attacker Katelyn Welch, a Robert Morris commit. Senior center midfielder Carley VanLuit, a second-team All-YAIAA player, and junior Ashley Valway also played vital roles in that season finale. Three of four attacking players return for coach Steve Marshner, and junior goalie Amber Orner helps the defense, he said.
York Suburban (4-9, 2-7) and Eastern York (0-13-1, 0-10) look to make the leap and join the race in Division II.
Preseason top five
2. York Catholic
3. South Western
5. West York
Save the date
Monday, April 7 >> Kennard-Dale visits York Catholic for the first time. They meet again at K-D on April 28.