The Padua lacrosse season came to an end May 19 in Lewes, as the Pandas were defeated by Cape Henlopen, 18-3, in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament. It was the final game for three players, the seniors who have been with the program since its first varsity season in 2014-15.
Despite the loss to Cape, a perennial powerhouse that routinely wins state championships, Liz Hennessy, Grace DiGiovanni and Sarah Kunkle are grateful for their experience at Padua and the opportunity to be influential members of the fledgling program.
“We’ve grown so much from our freshman year,” Kunkle said after the first-round tournament win over St. Andrew’s, in which she scored the winning goal with a second to go. “We were probably half and half wins and losses, which was a good start for our first year of varsity. Last year was the first year we went to the playoffs. We didn’t even expect to make it past the first round, but we ended up beating Appo by like six or seven goals, which is crazy.”
Hennessy and DiGiovanni played lacrosse for the same club team when they were in eighth-grade. They knew they were coming to a new team when they could have gone to a school with a more established pedigree. Hennessy, whose sister, Mary, was also one of the original members and who graduated in 2016, said there were advantages to playing at Padua.
“We can shape this program. We can really impact it into a great program like it is right now,” she said.
DiGiovanni and Hennessy also attended the same middle school, and DiGiovanni recalled their conversations about high school.
“Coming into it, we were like, ‘We can make this team whatever we want it to be.’ The school’s so great that we can be whatever we want here,” she said.
After a 4-6-1 mark that first year, the Pandas have not been below .500. They were 8-7 in 2015-16 but did not qualify for the state tournament. That changed last year, when they advanced to the second round, the same as this season.
DiGiovanni said that is something the three seniors can feel proud about as they prepare to move on.
“I think the first few years we were there, we were building up our team and kind of who we are as a program, and then the second two years we just kept coming and coming,” she said. “We wanted to get into the playoffs, kind of just show everything that we’ve been building.”
They also credited the players who came before them who helped make Padua lacrosse what it has become. They were the leaders on the first postseason team last year, and Hennessy noted that several alums – including her sister – who are home from college for the summer turned out to watch the St. Andrew’s game.
“It just shows we’re a strong team. Even though we’re young, we make great connections,” she said.