Cape Henlopen girls seeking 11th straight state lacrosse title

Cape Henlopen’s Meredith Lockwood celebrates with her teammates. Delaware State News file photos

LEWES — Entering her third season, Lindsey Underwood may be facing her toughest challenge yet as head coach of the Cape Henlopen High girls’ lacrosse program.

After losing 10 seniors from last year’s state championship team, Underwood’s Vikings hope to see a wave of youth help lead the team to the program’s 11th consecutive state title.

“We actually lost 23 girls in the last two years, which is a huge number, so we have four freshmen up and a bunch of sophomores,” Underwood explained. “They’re starting to come together. We’re lucky because a lot of them play in the club scene together, so that’s helpful, but there’s definitely a learning curve.”

“We have a lot of young girls stepping up,” said senior midfielder Alia Marshall. “It’s sad to lose such a great senior class last year, but it’s kind of a blank canvas. We have so much opportunity to do different things and implement new plays, and stuff like that.”

Underwood took over the coaching reins in 2017, following coach P.J. Kesmodel’s retirement after the 2016 title season, and has won back-to-back titles for Cape.

Kesmodel led the team to eight straight titles from 2009-16.

Lola Messick

Underwood served as an assistant on Kesmodel’s 2016 coaching staff and says she still uses some of his plays and techniques.

“We definitely still use a lot of his plays, a lot of his mindset,” she said. “Something that he’s often not given credit for is he was a school guidance counselor for years, so just seeing how he worked with the girls and seeing some of the motivational things he uses really helped out.”

As the quest for that 11th title gets underway next Monday, March 25 on the road at Stephen Decatur High in Maryland, the significance of the 10-year run hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of the current players.

“It’s a big legacy. This year would be 11 years, so no one wants to be the senior class that loses,” said senior midfielder Jackie Cannon. “So, there’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time it would be very, very satisfying to win another if we get that far.”

This year’s squad of 21 includes four freshmen, four sophomores and seven juniors.

“Having so many young freshmen and sophomores stepping in is going to be super hard, but a lot of them are really strong players and I think just working on their confidence throughout the year is going to lead to our success,” Marshall said.

“We’re having to break things down to smaller levels and really teach it,” Underwood said of this year’s practices. “We were fortunate to have so many seniors last year, they were kind of able to teach things to the incoming kids. So, we’re definitely breaking things down more, but it’s fun. It’s a fun challenge.”

The senior class is comprised of Cannon, Marshall, defenders Jillian Seker and Karissa Worley, attack Chloe Schaeffer and graduating junior midfielder Cameron Baldwin.

“It’s kind of nice because their positions are all spread out – they’re not all attacks or all middies,” Underwood said of the senior class.

Newcomer Ella Rishko is leading the way for the team’s freshman class, and Underwood expects her to make a big an impact on the field.

“We have Tarrah Welch coming in, I think she’s going to do a great job for us,” said Underwood. “We have Kelly Bragg coming in at attack and she’s just super quick, and we have Ella Rishko in the midfield and I think she’s just going to blow up for us.

“She’s super-fast, determined and gritty. She’ll probably be the quickest impact of the freshmen class.”

Goalie Laci Dixon rounds out the freshman class for Cape. She’s currently battling sophomore Destiny Kusen for playing time in front of the net.

“Right now, it’s kind of up in the air,” Underwood said of the goalie position. “They kind of complement each other, if we could put them together it would be perfect. The speed of shots is a little bit different than they’ve seen before, so they’re still catching up to that, but they’re doing a great job and they’re both working hard.”

While the pressure to keep the title streak alive may be in the back of the minds of some of the players, Marshall isn’t worried about past years.

She’s just focused on this season with this team.

“Every year is a new year, new competition, don’t think about the years before,” she said. “I think sometimes people forget, every year is a brand-new team, so we just have to focus on that season and remember every year is different.

“We definitely want to be a memorable team,” she continued. “I think with ‘the dynasty,’ it’s easy to fall into becoming just another Cape team that has won, and we want to be different.”

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