South Western girls' lacrosse coach Jim Kopenhaver heard his teams concerns at the beginning of the season. The loss of Katie Worley to graduation left many of the Mustangs doubting their potential this year.
Despite the loss of last season's leading scorer, the Mustangs found themselves in the District 3 quarterfinals against Penn Manor on Thursday and in the midst of a record-breaking season.
In a back-and-forth contest, a goal by Penn Manor's Mckenna Edwards with 1:34 left in overtime gave the Comets a 12-11 victory and abruptly ended the Mustangs' season. The scoreboard, much like their record, hardly tells the story.
"They didn't have high expectations," Kopenhaver said. "They lose Worley, and they think the world is coming to an end because she led the way for us for a few years. This team battled and fought all game and all season long. They will always have a special place in my heart. They worked hard in practice, and made it easy to coach.
"I feel really fortunate and blessed to get a chance to coach these kids."
At the onset of the game, it appeared as if the Mustangs were in over their heads with the level of competition, as Penn Manor jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first eight minutes.
A Sydney Szparaga goal with 16:13 remaining in the first half put the Mustangs on the board, but they headed into the half trailing 8-4.
"Obviously I did not feel like we played too well in the first half," Kopenhaver said. "I told them at the half that for as poorly as we played, being down four goals was not insurmountable by any means."
The Mustangs were still in it at that point, in large part, because of freshman goalie Lauren Silver, who came up with five huge saves in the last two minutes of the first half to prevent the game from becoming a blowout.
"For a freshman, she plays with a lot of heart," Kopenhaver said. "They are a really good team, but she really stepped up, and that's what you need your kids to do."
Penn Manor came out of the half and quickly scored another goal to extend their lead.
Down 9-4, and hope seemingly lost, the Mustangs rallied.
Two Callie Kavanaugh goals in less than a minute began to turn the tide, and the Mustang faithful began feeling a momentum switch.
Szparaga made it three unanswered goals for the Mustangs when she found the back of the net for her fourth goal of the game, cutting the Comets' lead to 9-7.
"I think we caught them by surprise," Kopenhaver said. "When we cut it to two, they weren't handling the ball well. I think we had them rattled a bit."
After an Emily Brown goal cut it to 9-8, South Western's Kavanaugh found Alyx May cutting to the net for the game-tying goal.
As they had done all season, they defied the odds, and after scoring five unanswered goals, had put themselves right back into the game.
Penn Manor's Edwards proved to be a thorn in the Mustangs' side all game long, as she broke the 9-9 tie with two consecutive goals to again put the Comets ahead.
The Mustangs rallied yet again, picking up a huge goal from Kavanaugh with 2:34 remaining and then another, less than 30 seconds later by Szparaga -- her fifth of the game -- to tie things up.
South Western had a chance for a last-second shot, but the Penn Manor defense blew up the play and prevented them from getting a quality shot off, sending the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Comets won the draw and after running their offense several times, Edwards cut towards the net and fired a shot that found the back of the net, giving Penn Manor the victory.
"We would have liked to have brought home a victory against Penn Manor," Kopenhaver said. "We beat them at home last year, so we knew what they had, but we just fell a little short. This team in particular will always be pretty much No. 1 in my heart at South Western."
PENN MANOR 12, SOUTH WESTERN 11 (OT)
Penn Manor 8 4 -- 12
South Western 4 7 -- 11
Penn Manor goals -- Mckenna Edwards 7, Jackie Hemler 2, Shannon Sloss 2, Eryn McCoy
Penn Manor assists -- Emily McCoy 3, Sloss
South Western goals -- Sydney Szparaga 5, Callie Kavanaugh 4, Emily Brown, Alyx May
South Western assists -- Kavanaugh, May