HARRISBURG - For one half of Wednesday’s Class AAA girls’ lacrosse final, Exeter seemed to have figured something out that has been lost of the rest of District Three.
The Eagles slowed the game, and Manheim Township’s high-powered offense, to a crawl. The Blue Streaks, averaging over 17 goals per game, trailed at halftime, 7-5.
A few minutes earlier, it had been a paltry 6-3.
“It was disheartening,’’ said Township captain Lucy Svetec, who had four goals and an assist. “It’s hard to be pumped down (three), but we knew we weren’t playing to our potential. We talked about playing our game.’’
It wasn’t an instant turnaround; Township still trailed 9-7 with 15 minutes left. But Exeter didn’t score again. The Streaks showed the heart of a champion in rallying to a 12-9 win and ninth district championship at Central Dauphin High School.
The Blue Streaks (19-3) were in the district final for the 10 time in 11 years. Coach Mark Pinkerton claimed his seventh district crown. In nine seasons, his teams are 143-33.
His kids said this one was special, perhaps because it was far from an afterthought for a program that lost seven senior starters from last year’s district champion and state finalist.
“Our captains did such a great job of leading us,’’ said sophomore Megan Rice, who had two goals and two assists. “They made this one to remember.’’
Wednesday’s game started to turn on Shannon Elias’ goal that made it 9-8 with 14:16 left. Svetec created a turnover and went nearly the length of the field to tie it 45 seconds later.
Soon Exeter (18-4) had a man advantage and then a penalty shot, taken by one of the Eagles’ best players, midfielder Ariana Kline, from inside the box.
Kline went straight at Gail Wilkes, Township’s sophomore goalkeeper, and fired a high, point-blank shot. Wilkes made a key save.
“It’s just instinct,’’ said Wilkes, who didn’t seem to even remember the exact moment. “We practiced a lot of close-up shots this week.’’
Rice scored on a nice move in traffic a moment later. Svetec scored after a penalty, and the Streaks had it in their grasp.
They closed the deal with a long, clock-killing possession that culminated in Svetec’s pass to Taylor Kopan for an easy one, that made it 12-9, with three minutes left.
The state tournament begins Tuesday, Township matched against the third-place club from District 7 at a site to be determined within District Three.
The state final is scheduled for noon Saturday. June 8 at West Chester University.