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In debut lacrosse season, Dover focuses on building trust

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Emma Long started looking for a solution.

Playing club lacrosse since the sixth grade, she naturally expected to play lacrosse for her high school team. She ran into one big problem: When she arrived in high school, Dover did not have a girls' lacrosse team.

"I wanted to play boys' lacrosse, actually, because we didn't have a girls' lacrosse team," Long said, laughing. "When I heard we were going to have an actual school team I was really excited just because we were never able to play for the school (until last season)."

Dover completed its first season last year, playing an independent schedule. It pieced together a regular season by going against some YAIAA teams, some Mid Penn Conference teams and some small Christian schools. It recorded a four-win season.

"It was a rough transition," Long said. "But just playing all these other teams that are experienced makes us better."

This year is the Eagles' first season in the YAIAA. Dover has already notched its first victory against a YAIAA foe, when the Eagles held off York Suburban, 7-6, earlier this month.

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But two big obstacles remain: Battling established programs and mind games.

"I think the frustration has gotten to us a couple times," said Dover junior Shae Gamble, who splits time in goal with sophomore Katie Sweitzer while also ranking third on the team in scoring. "We're not a negative team, but we can be caught up in frustration."

Unlike powerhouse established programs, Dover is blending first-year players with others who have been playing club lacrosse for close to a decade. It's not an easy task to bring together those types of players.

Frustration can start with something as simple as snapping at a teammate after a missed assignment.

"It gets in your head and you get frustrated with yourself and everyone else," Long said. "Being positive is really important."

So the girls have attempted to master the mind games and conquer negativity. They attempt to keep it positive, all the time.

"I found early on as I became a more experienced as a coach, when I'd get angry there might be three players that responded but as a group they didn't respond well to it," Dover head coach Bryan Gamble said. "The closer you are, the more you care for each other."

Dover's three captains organized a team lunch last week, Gamble said. No coaches. No teachers. No buses. Just the girls out to eat together as a team.

"Seeing the development of our team is a highlight," Dover junior Alex DiGiovanni. "Initially, we were very focused on individual play, but now everyone has come together as a team."

And against York Suburban, it showed. Despite holding a lead late, despite York Suburban's rally to cut the deficit to one, despite several one- and two-player disadvantages, Dover held off the Trojans.

"That really required us to work together and trust each other," DiGiovanni said, "because when you are two players down there is nothing you can do other than communicate well."

The Eagles continue to try to improve. They have notched two wins, including a non-conference win against Central Dauphin East earlier this year.

They have a combined 24 junior varsity and varsity players.

"If we could get 32 that would be perfect," Gamble said. "And I think in a year or two that's exactly where we will be."

And there it is again, that positive attitude comes into play.