DOVER — Dover High had worked years for this opportunity.
So, naturally, when the Senators put themselves in good position to notch the program’s first DIAA girls’ lacrosse state tournament win, they find rival Caesar Rodney waiting for them.
Dover’s players knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
But the fifth-seeded Senators made some crucial plays down the stretch to fend off the No. 12 Riders, 12-9, in the state tourney’s opening round before a good crowd on Wednesday night.
Dover’s players sprinted onto the turf to celebrate after finally earning a state tournament victory in their fourth try in the last five seasons.
The Senators (13-3) will go to Wilmington on Saturday to play at No. 4 Tower Hill (12-2) at 11 a.m. in the state quarterfinals.
“I know CR was ranked as the last seed and all that,” said Dover senior Kyleigh Dill, who tallied five goals and an assist. “People night think a five versus 12 matchup might be kind of easy. But we saw ‘CR’ on our bracket and we knew it was going to be a fight.
“This game was even more of a fight than when we played them the first time. We knew they were going to look for revenge. ... We’re just glad we came out with a win. It was a really special feeling.”
Dover beat CR, 15-10, on March 30. And the Riders (11-5) haven’t beat the Senators since 2016, losing the last five meetings before Wednesday’s contest.
On Wednesday, Dover opened up its biggest lead of the game at 10-6 on a goal from Ashtyn Torbert with 7:34 remaining. CR, though, kept battling.
With All-Stater Superia Clark (4 goals, 1 assist) off the field for a penalty, the Riders closed within 10-8 with 3:14 still left. Lyndsey Weller and Camille Arlotta-Luke (2 goals) netted goals 44 seconds apart.
But Torbert won the ensuing draw and got the ball to Dill. Dover was able to run off some valuable time in the offensive zone before a goal from Dill made it 11-8 with 1:59 remaining.
The Riders, though, answered again, this time getting a goal from Rylie Faircloth (2 goals, 2 assists) to get CR within 11-9 with 1:26 still to go. The Riders then won the draw with a chance to get even closer.
Off a free position play, however, Senator goalie Shiana Hall-Carter came up with the biggest of her seven saves.
Dover kept control before a free-position goal from Torbert (3 goals, 1 assist) finally iced the game with :37.7 seconds left.
“They play well together as a team,” Senators coach Molly Phillips said about her players. “They know where everybody is on the field. They get along off the field and that really transfers to the field.
“All bets are off — it doesn’t matter if it’s the tournament or not. When you’re playing your rival, it’s anybody’s game.”
“It was really fun playing our crosstown rivals,” said Clark. “There were a lot of emotions and intensity in the game. You could tell by just watching it. It was cool playing them.”
The Riders, who got five saves from goalie Missy Dolt, were playing in the state tourney for the first time in six years. They ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak.
Getting a second tournament win won’t be easy for Dover. Still, the Senators lost to Tower Hill just 17-16 on May 2 in a game that was tied 10-10 at halftime.
Dover’s players said they’re not ready for their season to be over yet.
“I don’t feel like we’re done now, I feel like we still have more work to do,” said Clark. “We’re going to keep pushing.”
“We have nothing to lose,” said Dill. “We always feel like we’re the underdog in any game we play. Last time (against Tower Hill) it was a fight. We’re just excited to have the opportunity to come out on top this time.”
Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or email@example.com.
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