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Susquehannock head coach Steve Marshner can’t help but smile when he talks about his defensive unit.

Two YAIAA first-team all stars, a Millersville commit and a St. Bonaventure commit? All on one defense?

No wonder the Warriors have finished top two in the league in team defense the last two seasons. And with all of their defensive starters returning this season, they'll be expected to be at or near the top of the league again.

"You see this smile," Marshner said while describing his team defense. "Defense is such an art. It's such a team skill, and this group does it so well."

Juniors Rachel Marshner and Haley Martinez are back following their all-star sophomore seasons alongside seniors Michella Salvitti (Millersville commit) and Rachel Miller (St. Bonaventure commit), who is returning from a torn ACL suffered in the 2015 YAIAA title game.

"Last year was a really solid defense, that was probably the best we've ever had," Marshner said. "But I really love this team and how they're forming this year. Sometimes it takes a while for a team to gel, but this team is already gelling and pushing each other."

Miller, who recorded 70-plus draw controls last season, was described by her coach as a "midfielder in disguise." She didn't play lacrosse until her ninth-grade season, and now she's going D-I.

"She's great in the field because she played soccer, and she has great footwork because she played basketball," Marshner said of Miller. "We gave her a stick, taught her how to throw a ball and she fell in love with the game."

Martinez, who was a first-teamer last season, is the blue-collar worker of the group.

"She does everything," Marshner said. "You ask and she gets it done."

Marshner is being recruited by nearly 40 schools after scoring 16 goals and adding 14 assists from defense last season. Salvitti rounds out the group with aggression and solid stick work.

But what makes this group good as a unit?

Communication and trust, Martinez said.

And a lot of that comes from the four of them being friends and teammates since fifth grade, Rachel Marshner added.

"We're such great friends, it's like second nature," she said.

Their cohesiveness will be that much more important this year after goalie Amber Orner's departure, which leaves three new goalies who have never played varsity fighting for a starting spot.

"Whoever starts, we want to protect her that much more," Marshner said. "They need to know they can trust us."

Their coach believes the defense's experience will be huge in helping a new goalie succeed behind them. It will be a new challenge, but one they'll adapt to, he said.

"It's just going to make us play even better because we don't want her (the goalie) stressed out," Martinez said. "It's going to bring us together and our level of play is going to go up."

Defending champs 

YAIAA Division I: Kennard-Dale

YAIAA tournament: Kennard-Dale

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