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Hard chargers: Rams complete Round 1 comeback

After leading the team through their customary "Two-claps-and-a-Ric-Flair" celebration, the Kennard-Dale girl's lacrosse coaching staff put into perspective what their win moments earlier had meant.

"You're now in the Elite Eight. You're one of the best eight teams in the state," they told a huddle of Rams' players.

Indeed they are.

It wasn't easy, but Kennard-Dale survived and advanced on Wednesday, using an 8-2 run in the second half to knock off Pine-Richland, 12-9, in the opening round of the PIAA tournament.

During a lethargic first half, the District 3 champs fell behind by three goals twice, including a 7-4 deficit heading into halftime.

"We pretty much reamed out the girls, they weren't playing like they're capable of and they weren't hustling," Kennard-Dale head coach Kelly Wetzel said of the halftime speech. "I think they would admit that. It's a little warm, it's the end of the school year, it's a culmination of things. But they were a little flat in the first half. They picked it up in the second."

The spirited halftime huddle must have shaken the Rams from their slumber. Sophomore Maddie Day scored four of her five goals during Kennard-Dale's 8-2 run over the final 25 minutes, Clare Boone made five of her eight saves and the Rams' barrage of shots finally started getting past Pine-Richland freshman goalie Abby Levier, who made 11 of her 17 saves in the first half.

"I can't take anything away from her, she made the saves she needed to," Wetzel said of Levier. "But our shooting was atrocious. For a lot of the saves, she didn't even need to move her stick or her body because we hit one of the two."

Day, Gillian Zimmerman, Emmie Dressel and Hannah Bracey scored four goals in a six-minute span midway through the second, turning an 8-7 deficit into an 11-8 lead.

"I give them a lot of credit," Wetzel said. "To be down by three goals and to come back and win by three, that's pretty impressive."

The victory puts the Rams in Saturday's state quarterfinals — which matches the farthest they've ever gone in the PIAA tournament — while the 23 victories this season ties a single-season record. They'll get Conestoga on Saturday for a chance to play in the state semifinals.

Wetzel warned not to be thrown off by Conestoga's fifth-seed ranking from District 1. This is the same team that started 18-0, including a 16-11 win over District 3 powerhouse Manheim Township, before being upset by Radnor in the district playoffs. Conestoga beat the District 12 champ Archbishop Carroll, 15-9, on Wednesday.

"We know it's a tough task, we can't make mistakes against them...They're the real deal," Wetzel said of Conestoga. "I think they used that loss (to Radnor) as a way to motivate themselves. A pissed off Conestoga team isn't exactly a good thing. We're going to have to play well to be competitive. We'll see what happens."