Aquinas girls lacrosse makes best of ‘rough season’

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Saturday, May 20, 2023 | 11:01 AM


There were many reasons why the Aquinas Academy girls lacrosse team missed the WPIAL playoffs this season for the first time since 2016.

An inexperienced starting lineup, a season-costing ACL injury to one of its top players and an offseason realignment into a rugged section were the main culprits.

But one thing didn’t change.

“It didn’t matter if we won or lost,” senior attack Mary BouSamra said. “We had a good time.”

Third-coach Maddie Fitzgerald found a lot of silver lining in a season that saw the Crusaders go 2-9 in Section 2-2A after reaching the WPIAL playoffs every year from 2017-22 and advancing to the WPIAL quarterfinals each of the past two seasons.

“Our win-loss record doesn’t really reflect how much we enjoyed the season,” Fitzgerald said. “It is tough to lose so many games, but it was really invigorating for me to see the girls not let that get them down. They still had a lot of fun.”

Fitzgerald knew this season would include some growing pains after the Crusaders graduated “essentially last year’s starting lineup,” and were forced to play in a much tougher section. Then senior attack Bella Hite suffered a torn ACL playing basketball and was lost for the lacrosse season.

“I think from last year to this year it was hard losing a lot of our seniors,” said Hite’s younger sister, freshman midfielder Francesca Hite, who scored 17 goals. “But we showed great improvement and growth throughout the season and although it was a rebuilding season, I think we have a better chance next year at winning some more games.”

Indeed, the losses provided opportunity. Attacks Palma Serrao and BouSamra and midfielder Kayleigh McMann served as senior captains, leading the team. They joined Bella Hite and reserve midfielder Emma McGinley in the graduating class of 2023.

Junior attack Alexa Queen was the team’s top scorer, while her twin sister, MacKenzie, was a steadying force on defense.

McMann’s younger sister, sophomore Claire, developed into a reliable goalie in her first year on varsity.

“I’m very, very proud of her,” Fitzgerald said. “She stepped into the varsity goal this year and was great for us.”

Francesca Hite emerged as one of the Crusaders’ leading scorers, as older sister Bella watched games from the sideline on crutches and offered encouragement to her teammates.

Junior Sara Sokolski, a first-year lacrosse player better known for her swimming prowess, won a starting job on defense, and freshman Elliot Keverline earned a spot at midfield.

Other returning starters for next season include junior defender Seraphina Myron and sophomores Grace Bond (MF) and Ariana Buchanan (D). Junior attack Mary Theresa Porter and sophomore defender Brynn Burnsworth provided depth.

“It was definitely a pretty rough season,” BouSamra said. “But trying to grow and learn with everybody, the new team, was fun.”

Despite first-year players comprising about half of the roster at the tiny Catholic school in Hampton, there were some feel-good moments. The Crusaders routed Ambridge, 16-2, on April 4 and defeated Trinity, 11-3, on April 18 in section play.

“We had a tough year,” Fitzgerald said. “It was definitely a building year for us. But any time you are talking brand-new players, there has to be improvement. They have nowhere to go but up. We saw a lot of really promising growth from our brand-new players, and I’m really excited for next year for that reason.”

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