PALMYRA – It hasn’t fully arrived yet. But it’s coming. And it’s coming hard.
And based on the passion and spirit displayed yesterday, when it does completely get here, it’s not going to go away anytime soon.
The development of the sport locally is still in its infancy, but that fact didn’t stop Lebanon County’s two girls’ lacrosse-playing schools from going at one another hard Friday afternoon at Lingle Avenue Elementary school. And after the dust had settled, and before the windy skies opened, it was Cedar Crest which had registered a 13-3 non-conference win over Palmyra.
So does that mean the Falcons are ahead of the Cougars on the learning curve? Or are Cedar Crest and Palmyra just experiencing different ends of the inevitable scholastic sports cycle?
Both Cedar Crest and Palmyra are in their sixth or seventh year of fielding PIAA-sanctioned teams.
Now 7-5 overall, Cedar Crest is very much in the running for historic berths in the Lancaster-Lebanon League and District Three postseasons. Meanwhile the 0-9 Cougars are still seeking their initial positive outcome of the spring.
“It is slow, because parents don’t know much about it,” said Cedar Crest head coach Emma Lebo of the development of the sport locally. “Now we have a middle school program, and we didn’t have one in the past. I think we could start a youth league. But we have the people who want to teach the fundamentals.”
“We have no feeder program or anything,” said Palmyra head coach Jen Porter. “I don’t know a lot about it (the history of the program), just that they needed a coach. But we all have field hockey backgrounds.
“For a lot of these girls, this is their second sport,” Porter added. “I don’t know what drove them to come to play lacrosse. It would be interesting to ask them. I guess they like competition and they think lacrosse is so cool.”
On the field, the Falcons controlled the flow of the play throughout. Using superior speed and skills, Cedar Crest jumped on the Cougars early, opened a 7-1 lead and put the outcome out of reach by netting three goals early in the second half.
With four goals, Falcon sophomore Alex Rich tallied a ‘baker’s hat trick’, while teammate Anika Harder found the back of the net three times. Cedar Crest’s Rachel Youngs, Emily Mesaros and Whitney Trout tickled the twines twice apiece.
“We did a phenomenal job given the fact that we didn’t have four starters,” said Lebo. “We were filling our starting spots with underclassmen. We needed a victory to enhance our chances of getting to the league and district playoffs.
“Our record is awesome,” Lebo added. “The most wins we’ve had in a season was six last year, and the year before that we had one win. It shows an improvement in our program, and that the girls are coming together. We’ve been over .500 all season, and the girls have had an eye on the playoffs the whole time.”
“Our transition game wasn’t flowing like it usually does,” said Porter. “We came out a little flat, but our girls picked it up in the second half.
Rich got her side off quickly, scoring on the Falcons’ first possession, and then with a well-placed shot 4:08 in. Over the next ten minutes of action, Cedar Crest upped its advantage to 5-0 on a field rush by Youngs, a tough spin shot from Mesaros and a good low hard shot by Trout.
“To me, it’s always been about pushing the team to a winning season,” said Lebo. “This is our sixth or seventh year of playing as a PIAA team. We are improving. Before it was all about fun and games. But now there’s nothing to joke about.
“Last year, they (the Cougars) beat us by a goal,” Lebo added. “Things are going forward. They’re (the Cougars) the only other girls’ lacrosse team in Lebanon County, so it was an important match.”
“I don’t think so,” said Porter when asked about how the start of t he game influenced the outcome. “We’re a very positive team. To our girls, that’s not going to make a difference. This team is resilient. I don’t think that was a factor.
“Our record doesn’t reflect our little victories,” Porter continued. “We’ve had a lot of moral victories. It doesn’t reflect the progress we have made. We find positives every single game, every single practice.”
Cedar Crest recorded three goals in the opening 3:52 of the second half to open a 10- bulge. Rich scored unassisted, then converted a nice feed from Harder, before Harder worked a one-on-one move.
“The key has been changing the program from a club to a more committed team,” said Lebo. “When you look at sports like girls’ tennis and girls’ soccer, we have a lot of talented female athletes at Cedar Crest right now.”
“My expectations? I knew coming into the season we’d be competitive because we have athletes,” said Porter. “We knew we’d be competitive on the field. This is definitely a different team than the one that started on March 4.
“We take one game at a time, and we make the adjustments as they come,” continued Porter. “A victory would be great. But I just want to continue to grow, learn and play as a team.”
Netting goals for the Cougars were sophomore Shawna Kleinfelter, freshman Erin Hoffman and frosh Hannah Soucy.
“Our biggest thing is our record doesn’t reflect the positives of the season,” said Porter. “You can chalk this up to a rebuilding year. It’s a great group of girls and I feel blessed to coach them.”