Polytech holds off Charter 13-12 in girls lacrosse tourney opener

WOODSIDE — With about 30 seconds left Thursday night, Polytech High still hadn’t put away Wilmington Charter.

Trailing by four with eight minutes remaining, the Force had now closed within a goal and just won a draw to set up another offensive possession.

And when one of Charter’s players sent a shot whizzing in on the Panthers’ goal, all Polytech’s MacKenzie Estrada could do was reach out her stick. The midfielder got just enough of the shot to send it wide of the net.

“It was just lucky,” Estrada admitted with a smile. “I felt it hit my stick and I was like, ‘Whew, thank God.’ Because if I didn’t hit, it might have gone in the goal.”

Polytech was able to gain control of the errant shot, got the ball to midfield and — after a timeout with 19 seconds left — ran off the remaining time as the Force could only give chase.

Only then could the seventh-seeded Panthers finally run onto the field to celebrate their 13-12 victory over No. 10 Charter in the opening round of the DIAA girls’ lacrosse state tournament on Thursday night.

The hard-earned victory sends Polytech (11-5) to a quarterfinal matchup against second-seeded Archmere on Saturday. The Auks (13-2), who beat the Panthers, 14-5 on May 6, will host the contest at 11 a.m.

The Panthers were just happy to still be playing after surviving the tense, back-and-forth battle against the Force (8-8). Seven yellow cards were called in the contest, including five on Charter, which had to play a player down for the final 16 minutes.

“It was crazy with all the cards,” said Estrada, who scored a game-high five goals. “They were getting mad, we were getting bad. But Mrs. Rich (coach Lynn Richardson) calmed us down. She said, ‘You need to calm down and play together as a team.’”

With a number of new starters this season, Richardson said it was a big accomplishment for the Panthers to reach the state quarterfinals. Now in its ninth year as a varsity program, Polytech is making its seventh straight tourney appearance.

“For the young guys to compete all year long and then come into a big game and be able to finish, that’s huge,” said Richardson. “I mean that’s why you coach.

“The kids who needed to step up, the leaders on the team, really understood what they needed to do.”

Besides Estrada, senior Holly Rembold (1 assist) and junior Jazmine Winfield both netted three goals with Claire Fuchs adding two goals and an assist. Junior goalie Carleigh Knotts made 12 saves.

Polytech took a 7-6 halftime lead on Rembold’s goal with just 12.4 seconds left in the first half.

Charter, which got five goals from Haley Amato, was able to stay within range of the Panthers, who never led by more than four goals in the second half.

Getting a victory on Thursday was especially important for Polytech’s players because they knew this was Richardson’s last home game with the Panthers. She’s leaving the school after 28 years to take a teaching job in the Cape Henlopen School District.

Thursday’s win pushed Richardson’s lacrosse record to 105-34 since starting the program.

“If we lost this game, it would be our last game with her,” said Estrada. “But we wanted one more shot. She’s a great coach. Everyone loves her. We’re so sad that she’s leaving.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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