Polytech seniors eye final chance for title

With the same nucleus of players and the same coach in Lynn Richardson, shown above talking to her team, Polytech has been chasing state title dreams in field hockey and lacrosse for four years now. (Delaware State News file photo)

With the same nucleus of players and the same coach in Lynn Richardson, shown above talking to her team, Polytech has been chasing state title dreams in field hockey and lacrosse for four years now. (Delaware State News file photo)

WOODSIDE — Allie McKay wonders what it’s like.

The Polytech High senior thinks it must be a pretty amazing thing to win a state championship.

How great must it feel to hear that final whistle sound and know that you’ve won it all?

“I always wonder what it feels like when you win — like right after the last second is over,” said McKay. “I want to know what it feels like, just to be a champion.”

Winning a championship is really about the only thing that McKay and her fellow seniors on the Panther field hockey and girls’ lacrosse teams haven’t accomplished.

With the same nucleus of players — not to mention the same coach in Lynn Richardson — the Panthers have been chasing their state title dreams in both sports for four years now.

Last school year, they made it to the state title game in both field hockey and girls’ lacrosse.

Of course, the other similarity is that both times they lost to Cape Henlopen, the state juggernaut in both sports.

Now, that talented group of Polytech seniors is down to just one last girls’ lacrosse season together — one last chance to add to their already-impressive legacy and, maybe, take a shot at winning that coveted state crown.

All-Stater Jamie Trabaudo admits there’s a lot of mixed feelings.

“It just kind of upsets me that it’s my last time playing with all these girls,” she said. “They’ve been my family for the past four years. It’s tough to kind of comprehend sometimes.

“Both groups have passion for each sport. We know when we come out here we’re going to give our all in each sport, no matter how far we make it. I think that just makes it a lot harder. … We just need to take every moment with all we’ve got.”

Polytech has 11 seniors on this season’s lacrosse roster. That includes a group of five players who have been regulars on both the field hockey and lacrosse varsity squads since they were freshmen.

That list includes McKay, Trabaudo, Kate Richardson, Morgan Cook and Kaitlin Bergold.

Those five have been part of teams that are a combined 94-22-1 (39-8 in lacrosse) with a 10-7 record in the state tournament and seven state tourney appearances in seven tries.

Nine of those 22 losses — including three of the seven in the tournament — have come against Cape Henlopen. And the Vikings haven’t lost an in-state game in either sport in that four-year span.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that, because they also play in the Henlopen Conference Northern Division with Cape, the Panthers don’t have a single title on their stellar resumes.

Still, Polytech’s seniors say they wouldn’t change the experience for anything.

“It gives us a lot of memories,” said Bergold, a first-team All-State defender in lacrosse last spring. “Not many teams can say they made the state finals. We’re really proud of that. We made two state finals in one year.

“We’ve played together for so many years, we just kind of click. We know where each other is on the field, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It really helps. We’re with each other every day.”

Indeed, Lynn Richardson says the five seniors have been so successful because they get along so well. She said they’ve grown into different roles that just seem to make the whole thing work.

“It’s kind of neat,” said Richardson. “It is a gifted group of athletes who work hard and they’re great friends. It’s just a privilege to coach them, it really is.”

“All five of us have been best friends on and off the field for four years,” said Trabaudo, who’s headed to North Carolina on a lacrosse scholarship. “Even after practice we’ll go over what happened in practice and try to think of better solutions for the next day. It definitely helps that we’re together all day.”

“I never have any issues with any of them,” McKay agreed about her teammates. “We always get along. We do everything together, too, outside of school. It’s really fun. I love playing with them.”

A year ago, McKay was the state Player of the Year in lacrosse after netting 104 goals. She’s going to play field hockey at Bloomsburg, Pa. in the fall.

All told, Polytech lost only two starters from last year’s 16-2 lacrosse squad. Some of the other top returning players include junior Cam Dennis, senior Caroline Hermance, sophomore Maddie McKay, junior Grace Stang and sophomore goalie Shannon Stephan.

“The expectations are high,” said Richardson. “We feel like we should be a top-four team. We’re going to have to play well during the season to get a good seed to compete in the state tournament.”

Like any high school senior in the spring, the veteran Polytech players have one eye on what’s ahead and the other looking back.

“We talk about it a lot because it’s our last year,” said Bergold. “We want to make it special. … We’re trying to keep it going. We don’t want it to end.

“It’s so sad. But it has to come. We’re excited for the future.”

After winning so many games together, though, the Panthers would love to make one more run at a state title.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that they’ll even reach the state finals again this spring. They haven’t forgotten that they were knocked off in the field hockey quarterfinals by Tower Hill in the fall.

On the other hand, Cape was the only team to beat Polytech in lacrosse last season. And while the Vikings ended up pulling away to a 16-6 win in the title game, Polytech trailed just 7-5 late in the first half.

“I think right now our biggest motivator is we were so close last year,” said McKay. “We just need that extra step and we’ll be there.”

“Every day in school, someone comes up to us — whether it be a freshman or a teacher — and they’re like, ‘Are you guys going to beat Cape this year?’” said Trabaudo. “We’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to try.’

“We were talking about it today. We were just saying the feeling of accomplishment we would get if we finally beat them. It would be incredible.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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