Young Panther girls lax team eyes powerful Cape tonight

WOODSIDE — Nobody has to give Grace Stang a history lesson on the Polytech High girls’ lacrosse program.

As the third member of her family to play for the Panthers, the senior defender has seen a lot of it in person.

Her older sister Adi played on Polytech’s first varsity team in 2010.

“It is crazy to see that we are such a young team but we’re thought of as one of the better teams,” said Stang. “We’ve made it so far.

“It’s obviously a growing year but it’s important to keep it going. The traditions we keep going throughout the year, even when people have left, it’s nice to have.”

Polytech’s Madilyn McKay rushes to the goal against CR’s Brianna Williams. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

So even though the Panthers are young this season, veteran players like Stang aren’t interested in giving up the ground that Polytech has made over the past several seasons.

The Panthers are 3-0 in the Henlopen Conference, 5-2 overall going into their toughest game of the season, a 6:30 p.m. contest today at eight-time defending state champion Cape Henlopen (4-0, 7-2).

Polytech has never beaten the Vikings — but that’s true for a lot of Delaware programs. Cape hasn’t lost to an in-state team since 2008.

Clearly the Panthers can go into tonight’s showdown feeling they have nothing to lose. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still excited about the opportunity.

“It’s always been the biggest game but it’s always been fun,” said Stang. “Those are my favorite kind of games. I don’t know if we’re going to win or not but, I’m a defender, so I love getting more action. As a team we really get intense for games like this.”

Cam Dennis

“It’s definitely a lot different since we lost a lot of players,” said senior Cam Dennis. “But I think it will be good. We can find new things we have to work on.”

Polytech counts on junior Maddie McKay and Dennis for much of its scoring. McKay has a team-high 37 goals with six assists while Dennis has 20 goals and four assists.

But this squad is built more around its defense and the goaltending of junior Shae Stephan. In the Panthers’ five victories, they’re giving up an average of only four goals per game.

“We have a fantastic goalkeeper that’s kept us in a lot of those close games,” said coach Lynn Richardson. “A lot of it has to do with her.”

Polytech’s biggest goal this season is getting back to the DIAA state tournament. The Panthers have a streak of four-straight state tourney appearances.

All Polytech can do is keep improving and hope that’s enough by the end of the year.

“It’s definitely key for the older girls to help the younger girls coming up,” said Dennis. “We want to keep getting better every day and stay focused on what we want to do.”

Grace Stang

“We try really hard to keep up everything they taught us when we were freshmen,” said Stang. “It’s definitely different already having two losses in the season.

“But Mrs. ‘Rich’ keeps reminding us, we’re going to keep going. We see the things we can work on. And it’s awesome seeing us play as a team and incorporating some of the younger players that we have.”

“Definitely I would say this year there’s no pressure,” said Richardson. “But still there’s a lot of pride to keep the success going. We know that Cape’s a great test. But it’s kind of a great place in our season because we’re halfway though. No matter what happens, we can build on it.”

Faced with a similar situation in field hockey this fall, the Panthers went through some growing pains before regrouping and reaching the state semifinals.
With many of the same players involved in both sports, Polytech’s players would like to use some of the lessons they learned in making that run.

“In field hockey, we really weren’t sure what we were going to be able to do,” said Dennis. “We got so far in the state tournament. In lacrosse it’s the same thing. We don’t know how we’re going to do.

“We bring that up all the time. We keep ourselves going by using that as motivation.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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