Dover girls lacrosse team aims to build on success

Dover junior Riley McQuaide has netted a team-high 13 goals and five assists. Delaware State News file photo

DOVER — Madison Small just remembers how much that loss hurt.

Dover High’s girls’ lacrosse team led Polytech by three at halftime only to lose, 9-8, in overtime last April.

“We still think about it every day,” said Small, now a junior for the Senators. “That was one of our hardest games to get over. I remember looking at her (teammate Riley McQuaide) at the end of the game and we just started crying.”

Unfortunately for Dover’s players, they suffered four one-goal losses last season — including a 12-11 setback to Tower Hill in the program’s first DIAA state tournament game.

On the other hand, the Senators only lost five games all year. They finished 11-5 in what was their most successful season.

Despite losing some talented seniors, Dover hopes that season was the start of something, not a finale.

With a roster that includes just one senior, the Senators (3-0) have reeled off three victories in the first five days of this season.

“I thought we were going to struggle a little bit,” said McQuaide, who is also a junior. “But I think we’ve picked up right where we left off — and (we’re) maybe even doing better than last year.”

Dover lost only three starters on a squad that has nine juniors. Small was a second-team all-Henlopen North selection last spring with McQuaide making honorable mention.

The Senators also got an influx of new players with five freshmen on the roster.

So while McQuaide has netted a team-high 13 goals and five assists, freshman Kyleigh Dill is right behind with 12 goals and four assists. Small and sophomore Ava Niebrzydowski have seven goals apiece.

Junior Amanda Dill, Kyleigh’s older sister, isn’t surprised by the quick impact the newcomers have made. Even Amanda admits she’s been impressed with Kyleigh’s performance so far.

“Everyone at school is like, ‘Wow, who’s this new girl that’s getting all these points?’” said Amanda. “I’m like, ‘That‘s my sister.’
“The expectation for a lot of the freshmen moving up was very high. They’re very skilled. They do a lot of things in the off-season. We’re all coming together and taking advantage of that.

“At first, at practice, it was just a matter of who fit where and who was good at doing what,” she added. “Once we got into games, it was very natural.”

Of course, the Senators’ success so far hasn’t come without plenty of hard work. Seven of Dover’s players play in the Eastern Shore League club program during the off-season.

Beginning in November, the Senators also started taking part in leagues, open gyms and weight training four nights a week. They went as far away at Kent Island, Md.

“It was way more than usual,” said coach Molly Phillips. “We knew that we had a lot of work to do so we started early getting everybody out and getting the freshmen acclimated with the program. There’s a lot of multi-sport athletes on this team.”

“We’ve worked really hard to get back into shape,” said McQuaide. “We’re very team-oriented. I think we’re just like a big family.”

The Senators know they have a reality check waiting in their next game. On Wednesday, they go to Lewes for a 6:15 p.m. matchup with 10-time defending state champion Cape Henlopen.

The Vikings dumped Dover, 18-2, in the Senators’ only non one-goal loss last season.

Like most teams in the state, the Senators know they have a lot of ground to make up on Cape.

“We want to be competitive not just in our conference but in our state, too,” said Phillips. “Cape is just a great program. They just seem to reload every year.”

“I think us knowing from past years how great they are,” said Amanda Dill, “that gives us more of a fight from within to go out there hustling and fighting until the (final) whistle blows.”

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