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New Oxford looking to rebuild without Reddinger

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It's no secret what led to the New Oxford girls' lacrosse team's turnaround the past two seasons.

The Colonials had arguably the YAIAA's top player in Braxtin Reddinger, who scored a ridiculous 162 goals in a two-year span after transferring from South Western prior to the 2015 season. With Reddinger lighting up opposing defenses, New Oxford posted back-to-back winning seasons and made the 2016 District 3 playoffs after finishing well below .500 the previous seven years.

Now that Reddinger is playing at Lock Haven, the Colonials are trying to remain competitive without their former star. In a league stacked with District 3 contenders like Kennard-Dale, York Catholic, Susquehannock and Red Lion, that will be far from easy. Two games into the 2017 campaign, New Oxford is 1-1.

"I would love to say I plan on seeing us (in the playoffs), but you never know with this league," said New Oxford coach Eric Needle, who is Reddinger's father. "We’re getting there slowly, but it is a rebuilding experience for us."

An assistant the past two years, Needle is in his first season leading the program after former coach Jess McIntyre stepped down to spend more time with her young son. While it's been an adjustment for him now that his daughter has graduated, Needle said the transition from assistant to head coach has been fairly easy.

That's because the Colonials, while fairly young, actually have a very experienced roster. New Oxford only had one other senior besides Reddinger last season, meaning that most of the lineup that went 10-6 has returned. What the Colonials are still looking for, however, is a new go-to player.

That doesn't mean Needle is expecting any one person to score 80 goals in a season like Reddinger could. While the new head coach is comfortable with a more balanced offensive approach, he's looking for players who can take on more responsibility as leaders.

"Braxtin was very well-spoken as far as telling the other players, 'you guys need to go here, you need to go there.'" Needle said. "It's hard finding that right now. But instead of having one or two weapons on the field, now we’ve got seven or eight. It’s kind of finding the balance and seeing who’s going to step into the role of the lead player."

Right now, the Colonials are relying on juniors Bri Smith, Carly Flickinger, Lexi Leete and Mackenzie Deckman as leaders. In the team's first win of the season over Dover on Wednesday, Leete and Smith both scored twice while Flickinger found the back of the net once.

While New Oxford's current players know the team's expectations aren't as high this season, they're remaining focused on improvement. If anything, some of the Colonials are enjoying the opportunity to take on a larger role this season.

"All seven of us out there on attack can score goals," Flickinger said. "Now that Braxtin is not here, it’s time for us to step up and be the leaders we can be.”

Added Smith: "I think it's really motivational. We're not seniors, and all of us on the team are leaders together. The key to a strong offense is to move the ball quickly, and we have to rely on everybody now."