Championship culture helps Pine-Richland girls lacrosse team reload

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Sunday, April 7, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Some of the faces have changed, but the goal remains the same for the Pine-Richland girls lacrosse team.

They want to win a championship.

After claiming the WPIAL Class 3A title for the first time since 2018 last year, the Rams will have to replace seven seniors who graduated but have some returners with experience and some younger players ready to step in.

“It’s cool to see some of the returning varsity players stepping into new roles such as leadership and who’s becoming the new playmakers and goal scorers,” Pine-Richland coach Shannen Drennon said. “They expect just as much out of themselves after what they achieved last year.”

The Rams return only two seniors in Ashley Woodward and Taylor Wilkinson.

Woodward is a Mercyhurst recruit and a midfielder, while Wilkinson is an attacker.

Drennon said both will be major contributors.

Sophomore forward Cate Gentile returns as one of the team’s top goal scorers.

Juniors Madeline Mill and Kendyll Jerry bring experience to the midfield.

Erica Waite, a junior, is the lone starter returning on defense. Fellow junior Claire Dosch is back as the starting goalkeeper.

A couple of freshmen have stepped into starting roles in Claire Mill (midfield) and Mallory Boivin (attack). Claire is Madeline Mill’s younger sister.

“They both came in and earned those spots, and the older girls have taken them under their wing, which is part of the culture we were so huge on implementing last year,” Drennon said. “Looking at them on the field, you would have no idea that they are freshmen out there with the way they are picking up for the girls that graduated.”

The Rams won their first three games against South Fayette, Quaker Valley and Hempfield but dropped a tight 10-8 decision to Peters Township.

“I think that loss was a turning point for them,” Drennon said. “They could see they aren’t invincible and that they have stuff to work on. They’re eager to get back into it and really get into the season now that spring break is wrapping up.”

Being the defending champion comes with pressure, but the Rams have welcomed that challenge. They also understand they are an evolving team with new pieces.

When it comes to handling everything, Drennon expects the team to continue to use the team-centric culture they cultivated when she took over last year to be a guide as the season progresses.

“You want to live up to those expectations, because we were that program last year, but at the same time, we are a different team,” Drennon said. “I think the biggest thing is that we were so invested in developing our team culture last year. I truly think that developing that culture was what made us competitive and got us to a point where we went through WPIALs and won it.

“It pushes the girls, especially the returning girls, because they know they have that target on their backs. They want to perform and do well, but at the same time if we do lose a game, they can rely on that culture we worked so hard on developing.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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