Pine-Richland girls secure back-to-back WPIAL lacrosse titles

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Thursday, May 24, 2018 | 11:11 PM


From the onset of their WPIAL Class AAA championship game against Sewickley Academy, the Pine-Richland girls lacrosse team established a stranglehold on the action and rarely let up as it topped the Panthers, 11-3, to win a second consecutive title.

The authoritative victory by Pine-Richland (16-1) provided a bookend to a season that saw the team lose to just one WPIAL foe, Sewickley Academy (12-6) on April 5, and capped off a month-and-a-half long stretch of dominance in Class AAA.

“It feels incredible. For the girls to work so hard all season and be so consistent, and to do it against a tough team like Sewickley Academy, it's great. We saw them early on in the season and lost, so to get a chance to play them again in the finals, it was special,” Pine-Richland coach Brittany Adams said.

“Our girls really showed up tonight, and they deserved this championship.”

The Rams' command over the game began with Kendall Gessner, who tallied the first of four straight Rams goals to start the match at Robert Morris. From there, the junior continued to display her scoring prowess, finishing with a game-high four goals.

“She's always been consistent for us. Under the pressure of circumstance, she always rises to the occasion,” Adams said. “She plays basketball as well, so she has that additional exposure to bigger moments. She stepped it up tonight, and I'm just so proud of her. I'm glad we have her for another year.”

Meg Luellen scored three goals for the Rams while Marina Miller chipped in a pair. Catherine Haas and Lauren Juncal notched one score apiece.

The Pine-Richland offense executed on its end, but it was the team's defense that played the starring role in the win.

Sewickley Academy had scored 49 goals in three playoff victories, including wins over No. 2 Mt. Lebanon and No. 3 Fox Chapel. The Rams, however, imposed their will and limited the tough Panthers squad to just three goals.

“Our goalie, Abby Levier, played a phenomenal game. I think she had 10 or 11 saves for us. Our defense picked off a lot of passes and played with a lot of anticipation,” Adams said.

“Sewickley is young and they're a really tough team, but our defense just caused a lot of turnovers. They really came up big for us.”

Sewickley Academy, which features four seniors, three juniors, two sophomores and 10 freshmen on the roster, survived a fierce gauntlet of opponents to reach the championship game. The outcome of the finals may have not been what first-year coach Chelsea Cameron and her team were hoping for, but she said this year was a winning season nonetheless.

“We should be proud of what we've accomplished this season. We've come a really long way. This program is developing,” Cameron said.

“Nobody expected us to be playing in a championship game this year, and we fought our way to get to it. I couldn't be more proud of them.”

Elsa Gordon, Antionette Heil and Ellie Zack each netted a goal for the Panthers.

Both Pine-Richland and Sewickley Academy will move on to represent the WPIAL in the PIAA Class AAA tournament.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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