DOVER — The pressure to keep this thing going is what drives each senior class now.
But that doesn’t mean Cape Henlopen’s girls’ lacrosse players don’t happily celebrate when they win another state championship.
There was just also a little bit of relief mixed in with the joy after the top-seeded Vikings pulled away to a 16-6 victory over No. 2 Polytech to capture its seventh straight DIAA state title on Tuesday night.
The seventh crown also gives Cape (14-4) the most of any school since an official girls’ lacrosse state tournament was started in 1998. The Vikings had been tied with St. Andrews with six titles.
After the Panthers (14-2) trailed just 8-5 at halftime, Cape outscored them 8-1 in the second half.
“All the seniors, we knew that this was the last time that we would ever be on the field together,” said senior Sarah Tappan, who scored a game-high five goals. “It was bittersweet knowing that we would never get to play together again.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders,” she said about winning the title. “Now they (the underclassmen) have to keep going.”
“As I get older, they just get harder,” said P.J. Kesmodel, Cape’s 71-year-old coach. “They gave us a good game — they did a lot of good stuff. And we were turning the ball over and blowing shots. The pressure mounts as you keep winning and everybody expects you to win.
“They were committed to winning this thing again. The seniors every year, they don’t want to be the first class to lose so they really commit themselves to winning. They were ecstatic.”
Tuesday’s victory was Cape’s fourth straight over Polytech. It was the third in a row by exactly 10 goals.
The Panthers, who lost to the Vikings 19-9 during the regular season, never led in the title game. But the contest was only 1-1 with 14:09 left in the first half.
Then after falling behind by four goals, Polytech got goals from Jamie Trabaudo and Maddie McKay to close back to within 7-5 just before halftime.
Only a goal from Sara Young off an assist from Lizzy Frederick with 0.4 seconds on the clock gave Cape its 8-5 lead.
“That was probably our best half of the season,” said Polytech coach Lynn Richardson. “We knew we had to put two halves together and we just don’t have the bench to do that. They were able to interchange a midfield line on us and my kids are playing every minute of the game.”
It was 11-5 before the Panthers scored again. Another goal from McKay, with 12:56 left, stopped a run of four straight Cape goals.
Polytech didn’t score again in the contest as it was held under nine goals for the first time this season.
While the Vikings’ entire defense played well, Kesmodel said goalie Sam Broadhurst was especially good on Tuesday. The senior finished with 11 saves and two interceptions.
“That was the best game she’s had all year,” said Kesmodel. “She played lights-out and that was huge.”
Besides Tappen, Cailey Thornburg scored three goals for the Vikings, Jordan Brown had two while Alexa Woodruff, Taylor Gooch, Frederick, Annie Jidge and Alison Palmer scored the others. Cape outshot Polytech, 30-24.
“We lost so much talent last year that we really had to step it up this year,” said Woodruff. “We only had six seniors and we worked so hard. I just put so much time into this year that I really wanted to go out with a bang.”
For the Panthers, Allie McKay netted three goals, Maddie McKay had two with Trabaudo scoring the other. Shannon Stephan made 12 saves and Katie Richardson added three assists.
Polytech returns enough key players to be considered a contender to Cape’s dynasty again next year.
“To go from no tournament wins to get to the finals, we’re happy we had the opportunity,” said Lynn Richardson. “I’m looking forward to the future.”
Kesmodel, on the other hand, admits he wouldn’t mind retiring. But he also says he hasn’t been able to find the right successor — someone who doesn’t mind the pressure of being expected to win a state title every spring.
“I should be in a rocking chair,” Kesmodel joked. “I moved to Rehoboth Beach to retire. I’ve got to find somebody to take my place, that’s the problem.
“And I don’t want to just give it to anyone. I could just walk away but I’ve put a lot of time and effort into building the program and I don’t want to just hand it over to anybody. I’d like to find someone who I think would do a good job and leave it in good hands. If I could do that, I’d walk away in a heartbeat.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or email@example.com.