Riders snap girls’ lacrosse tourney slide, rip Eagles 21-7

Caesar Rodney’s Delaney Steele, who scored a game-high eight goals, looks to go between Smyrna defenders Me-ghan Yerkes and Elicie Edmond. (Submitted photo/Jon Lloyd Jr.)

Caesar Rodney’s Delaney Steele, who scored a game-high eight goals, looks to go between Smyrna defenders Me-ghan Yerkes and Elicie Edmond. (Submitted photo/Jon Lloyd Jr.)

CAMDEN — Caesar Rodney High’s girls’ lacrosse players were excited to make it to the state tournament, of course.

But the Riders were getting a little tired of losing in the first round.

They finally changed that on Friday, as seventh-seeded CR rolled to a 21-7 victory over No. 10 Smyrna in a DIAA opening-round game.

It was the first state tourney win for this particular group of players as well as the program’s first tournament victory in over eight years.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for the past four years,” said senior Delaney Steele, who netted a game-high eight goals. “We’ve had this goal since sophomore year.

“We finally did it. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

“These girls have played together since they were five and six,” said CR coach Debra Yingling. “They’ve kind of reached all their goals this season. … As a group of 10 seniors, they’ve made it to the first round but never to the second. They’re really excited about this.”

The reward for CR (9-7) is a rematch with Henlopen Conference rival Polytech in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. The contest will be played at Woodside at 7 p.m.

The second-seeded Panthers (13-2) downed the Riders, 15-6, in the third game of the season.

CR, though, will gladly take the challenge after getting past the Eagles (9-7), who were making the program’s first state tournament appearance. The Riders had beaten Smyrna only 11-10 during the regular season.

And the Eagles hung with the Riders for much of the first half on Friday.

When senior Maddie Price scored midway through the first half, Smyrna trailed only 6-5.

CR, though, scored the last four goals of the first half before netting the first two goals of the second half to take control. The Riders ended up outscoring the Eagles, 11-2, in the second half.

“We definitely had the mindset that they were going to come out hard (in the second half) and we just had to come out harder,” said Steele. “And we definitely did. We were prepared. We knew what to expect from them. We got ourselves ready and we went out and did it.”

Besides Steele, who had three assists, Jenna Rigby had five goals, Kourtney Olsen and Stacie Cava netted three apiece and Maegan Stewart added two. Olsen’s total included the 200th goal of her career as she joined Steele in that elite group.

CR also got 16 saves from goalie Kaitlyn Longest.

Rigby’s performance was especially rewarding after the senior was sidelined for a year following knee surgery last spring.

She only returned to the field three games ago following the ordeal, which not only involved an initial surgery but then a second operation after her knee became infected.

It was important for Rigby to get to play again with the friends who she’d been playing lacrosse with for years.

“I just wanted to be back with my team,” said Rigby. “There were many times I went to the doctor and he said, no, you can’t play, when I thought for sure I’d be cleared. He said I’d be good in nine or 10 months but it went way over that.”

“Three hundred sixty-five days of physical therapy, it’s got to take a beating on anybody,” said Yingling. “She just keeps fighting and she just keeps quiet and gets the job done. … It’s amazing. The kids love her. They’re so excited she’s back.”

Despite the loss, Smyrna was proud of its accomplishment of just making the state tourney. This is only the third varsity season for the program.
Price tallied a team-high four goals on Friday with Shabnam Noroozi-Pooya and Kaila Hindt scoring the others. Goalie Gabrielle DiRusso made nine saves.

“They’ve worked hard for four years, they’ve given their all,” said Smyrna coach Amy Musto. “This was a dream — almost like a pipe dream actually. And for it to become a reality, it’s unbelievable.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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