The agony of victory and a fifth straight state championship fell to a mentally exhausted Cape Henlopen girls' lacrosse team May 23 at Dover, beating Tower Hill 12-10 for their 63rd straight win over a Delaware opponent going back to the 2009 season.
The head coach known as the Zen Master, P.J. Kesmodel, rocked a favorite expression after the game, "It was an ugly win, but it was a win.”
But not just a win, a state championship win, as players from previous teams found the field after the game to join the celebration. The pressure on Cape to keep it going seemed to exhaust the players.
“It all would have meant nothing if we had lost this game,” senior Anna Frederick said after the game. “Our mission was to win it and we did; that’s all that matters."
The Hillers versus Cape real time, one-time, winner-take-all collision was set up at the end of the 2012 season, when Kesmodel looked over the talent in the state and said, “It’s Tower Hill. If we get to the finals, they are the team with the most talent who has the best chance of beating us.”
And the game played out weirdly in the first half, with Tower holding a 6-4 lead, but goals by Karalyn Joseph and Anna Frederick leveled the Vikings at 6 at intermission.
“We should be OK,” Kesmodel calmly told his team. "You just need to be patient and make better decisions.”
Cape’s diversified array of offensive weapons snapped early in the second half on unanswered goals by Sara Young, Kat Judge, Allie Yeager, Joseph and Young again to lead 11-6. That made it five straight Cape goals and a five-goal cushion with 12 minutes remaining.
Cape went to “spread yellow” to pull out the defense, run the clock and only go to goal for a layup.
“That is the worst spread offense we’ve run with a lead in the last five years,” Kesmodel said. “Players were taking bad shots, forcing passes and turning the ball over. And every mistake we made, Tower Hill made us pay. A credit to them in many ways. They played better than we did; they had a great game plan and their kids executed it. “
Jenna Chodos, Kiva Walsh and Sophie McCoy scored for the Hillers, and with four minutes remaining it was on. Every pass and turnover became crucial to the outcome.
Tower Hill lost the ball twice with possession in the final minutes and “spread yellow” put another trophy on Fred Harvey’s yellow school bus.
“I was nervous that entire game and all day long," said Harvey, the lacrosse team's designated good-luck driver.
That is the pressure of defending a five-year streak. It rippled all the way to the man who drives the “spread yellow” bus.
Sara Young led Cape scorers with 3 goals followed by Anna Frederick, Allie Yeager and Karalyn Joseph each with 2, while Kat Judge, Jordan Brown and Lexi Woodruff scored single goals.
Riley Wagner and Lexi Woodruff each had an assist.
Tower Hill goals were by Jenna Chodos 4, Sophie McCoy 3 and single goals from Megan Cobb, Alex Dupont and Kiva Walsh.
Chodos, Cobb, Ellie Wakefield and Walsh each had an assist.