Rebuilding Mustangs' lacrosse readies for next step
Defending league and district champion Kennard-Dale tops the list of the YAIAA's best programs in 2017.
South Western enjoyed significant success in girls' lacrosse earlier this decade, winning division titles and qualifying for five straight District 3 tournaments.
After a recent downturn, the Mustangs appear to be recovering well. They've earned berths in the YAIAA and district tournaments this spring, despite finishing fourth in their division.
"We're trying to build our program back up to where it was a few years ago, and we're gaining a lot of experience along the way," South Western coach Randy Kavanaugh said. "We have 15 freshmen in our program and might have seven or eight more on the way from eighth grade that will join us next year. We also only have four seniors this year."
South Western (10-5) draws the division's regular-season champion, Kennard-Dale, in the league tournament semifinals to be played at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Red Lion.
Kennard-Dale (15-1-1) had only one blemish in the division during the regular season, a draw with York Catholic. The Rams won the regular season match-up with the Mustangs, 19-9.
"We played OK in the match against Kennard-Dale. We were penalized a couple times for being in the crease when we scored. So it could've been a couple of goals closer," Kavanaugh said. "You want to play against the best competition. Because playing against the best will only make you better."
On Tuesday, South Western received four goals from sophomore Jordan Gertz but lost its regular-season finale to New Oxford, 9-7.
New Oxford (10-7) didn't have a shot at qualifying for the league tournament but had plenty to play for.
"South Western is a local rival and Randy and I know each other very well," New Oxford coach Eric Needle said. "We were playing for district seeding today and the possibility of a home game."
South Western and New Oxford could be headed for a rematch in the district tournament, which begins Monday. They will be among the top 12 teams in Class 3A.
South Western entered Tuesday's match No. 8 in the power rankings, while the Colonials held down the ninth spot.
Though a first-time head coach this spring, Needle served the previous two seasons as an assistant.
"I brought in a few new coaches and this being our first year as a staff, we expected somewhat of a rebuilding season," Needle said. "Around the middle of the season, I realized that we had a realistic chance of making districts."
New Oxford senior keeper Gracie Ernst stood tall between the pipes Tuesday, collecting 17 saves. South Western lost despite outshooting the Colonials, 29-17.
"Gracie was phenomenal for us today," Needle said. "She came up big multiple times."