Entering the final two games of the regular season, the Elizabethtown Area High School girls lacrosse team held the final spot in the Class 3A District 3 playoffs. However, in order to stay in the field, the Lady Bears had to knock off two teams already in their respective postseasons. Unfortunately for them, they came up short in both, consequently finishing one spot out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
The team went on the road to face Lancaster Country Day at Lancaster Catholic’s football stadium on Thursday, May 2. The Cougars, who were holding their Senior Night festivities, got behind early after junior Kate Weissend and senior Jaide Epler combined to score three free position goals. Senior Cyrose Conteh did the same following an LCD goal to put the Lady Bears up 4-1.
The Cougars responded by scoring four straight to take a 5-4 lead. Goals from Conteh and senior Marena Lonardi helped Elizabethtown to tie the game at 6-6, but LCD went on a run after that, posting seven unanswered goals before Weissend stopped the onslaught late in the first half. One last Cougars goal before halftime put the score at 14-7 heading into the break.
A pair of Lonardi goals cut the score to 15-9 early in the second half. However, LCD followed that up with six straight to put the game out of reach. Weissend and senior Sami Shutt tacked on goals late for Elizabethtown to lessen the damage, but it wasn’t enough, and the Cougars ended their regular season with a 23-12 victory.
Junior Lauren Wassall finished with a game-high 9 goals for LCD. Seven Cougars scored in all, with senior Samantha Enyon getting 5. Senior Maggie Boyle was a major contributor with 3 goals and 6 assists. Freshman Phoebe Stover had 5 saves at goalkeeper.
Weissend led Elizabethtown with 5 goals. Lonardi had a hat trick, while Conteh scored twice. Epler and Shutt each had a goal as well. Senior goalie Corrie Baker finished with 6 saves.
The Lady Bears closed the regular season at South Western on Friday, May 3. It was a tightly contested game, with both sides trading goals throughout the afternoon. The Mustangs were able to go up 7-5 at halftime and hold off Elizabethtown down the stretch as well, eventually winning 14-11.
Junior Caitlyn Coates led all players with 5 goals for South Western. Senior Jordan Gertz and freshman Katie Yocum each had 3 goals, while junior Adreanna Hacker had 2 goals and 2 assists. Freshman Morgan Melucci made 6 saves in the net.
Lonardi had a team-high 4 goals for the Lady Bears in her final high school game, also getting an assist. Weissend finished with a hat trick, while Epler closed out her career with 2 goals. Conteh and junior Morgan Miller also scored, with the former getting an assist. Baker had 7 saves at goalkeeper.
With the two losses, Elizabethtown ended the regular season with an 8-10 record and fell out of district playoff contention, as Conestoga Valley, the No. 13 team in the power ratings ahead of Thursday, won over Central Dauphin East and lost to Governor Mifflin to finish at 8-9. The Lady Bears needed extra help from other teams before the deadline of Wednesday, May 8, to potentially get back to No. 12 but were eliminated by the end of Monday, May 6.
“I really hope they look past the scores and see that, in each and every game, all 12 girls on the field and everyone that came off the bench gave everything they had,” head coach Cheyenne Benson said. “When we walked off the field, they gave 110 percent, and honestly, that’s all that I can ask of them.”
Like 2018, Elizabethtown just barely missed out on the postseason, and this year was even closer than the last. It would be easy to dwell on some of the losses; the Lady Bears lost to each of the last three teams in Class 3A (Central Dauphin, South Western and Conestoga Valley) along the way and also took a close loss to Warwick early on in the schedule.
But there were also plenty of accolades. Conteh and Weissend both passed the 100-goal mark for their careers. Epler and Shutt did the same in points and ground balls, respectively, while Baker went over 300 saves to set the new program record, later going past 400 as well.
“This is the first year we’ve really started tracking a lot of stats,” Benson said. “We’re obviously looking for the team accomplishments, but those individual ones are definitely something for us to look at, especially in tough games. For instance, Corrie hitting 300 saves and breaking the (program) record even though we lost to Warwick, and passing 400 later on. It’s trying to find the bright side in every game and using that positivity.”
The Lady Bears lost six rotation players to graduation at the end of last year, and this season will be even worse for them in that department. Conteh (team-high 73 goals, 10 assists), Epler (26 goals, team-high 17 assists) and Lonardi (35 goals, 6 assists) will leave behind three giant spots on offense. Shutt, Sydney Pierson and Jillian Molloy will do the same on defense, as will Baker at goalie. Four of them will be playing sports at the collegiate level as well; Conteh (Kutztown) and Shutt (IUP) will be sticking with lacrosse, while Lonardi (Lock Haven) and Pierson (Kutztown) will be suiting up for basketball.
“There will definitely be a lot of big holes,” Benson said. “Some of them have been the heart and soul for the program since middle school. They’ve honestly set the tone in a lot of ways, and it’s going to be hard to fill those spots. I’m really proud to see some of them go on to play in college, and it’s exciting to see them all at the next level. Next year, we’re gonna have a lot of work to do.”
Next year will most certainly be a transitional one for Elizabethtown. Weissend will still be around for her fourth varsity season; she’ll be in line to set new program records for goals, assists and points. However, the Lady Bears will need several of their role players to step up. Miller, junior Abbi Dehmey, junior Madisyn Ealy, junior Kadey Kreider and sophomore Brooke Horst are the likeliest to do so on offense, while sophomore Jordyn Gutshall is expected to take Baker’s spot in the net.
Still, one thing that’s in the team’s favor is the sheer size of the roster. Benson will have 29 underclassmen coming back in 2020, among them 11 sophomores and 10 freshmen. Many of those players were new to the sport this year, but with a full offseason of work, most of them should be ready to take the next step. The Lady Bears will have the odds stacked against them though.
“I think we’re just gonna have to build during the fall and our winter league,” Benson said. “Anything we can do to get on the turf and work on our fundamentals. If we do that in the offseason, we’ll be ready to go as soon as we get on the field when the season starts.”