Chartiers Valley girls lacrosse catches lightning in a bottle in WPIAL championship season

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Saturday, June 25, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Chartiers Valley girls basketball team’s run of three straight WPIAL championships ended this past season.

However, that doesn’t mean the school didn’t mine any gold this year.

The Colts girls lacrosse team captured its first district crown this spring, becoming the third girls program to win a WPIAL team championship in school history, joining basketball (2017, 2019, 2020, 2021) and softball (1977, 1978).

“I told this team on March 3 that I could feel it in my bones that we had something special with this group and that I believed we could win WPIALs,” Chartiers Valley coach Melissa Moran said. “I believe my exact words to describe the team to them was ‘lightning in a bottle.’’

“They laughed at the phrase, but I continued to use it all season. And that’s exactly what we had. Fortunately our talent was across the board from our freshmen to our seniors and every player contributed to our overall success. This season was definitely one for the books and we cannot wait to be the first team to hang a girls lacrosse banner in the gymnasium.”

The regular season saw the Colts finish third in Section 2-2A behind last year’s champion and runner-up, Blackhawk and Mars.

“I think everyone knows that you learn in losses more than you can learn from victory any day.” Moran said. “Our initial loss to Mars was a wake-up call to both me and the girls that we were not quite where we needed to be if we wanted to end up in the championship game. As far as our initial loss to Blackhawk, the game started out close and then Blackhawk went on a run and we weren’t mentally disciplined enough at the time to respond.

“Between those losses, we were able to review film and work on what we needed to in practice to be prepared when seeing them again.”

In the district playoffs, fifth-seeded Chartiers Valley beat Oakland Catholic and Indiana to advance to the semifinals against defending champion Blackhawk.

The Colts stunned the Cougars, 20-9, to advance to the district championship game.

“Some specific things that changed in the rematch against Blackhawk were our ability to break their zone defense,” Moran said. “We practiced for quite some time how to break a zone and we were able to execute exactly what I envisioned. Another thing was minimizing our turnovers, maximizing our draw controls and making more of our eight meters.”

Another familiar face awaited Chartiers Valley in the finals. Mars was back and in search of its first WPIAL title.

Moran believes her team’s mental approach and preparation to the title match was a big factor in the Colts’ 17-6 win.

“After our win against Blackhawk, I was hoping they would recognize the championship could be ours if we stay focused,” she said. “Most importantly, our defense in the championship game was on lock. We had reviewed film and knew what to expect, and the defense was able to minimize their opportunities on offense.”

Leading the way for the Colts was freshman Juliana Betts. She ended the season with 70 goals, 33 assists and 129 draw controls.

“Although Juliana’s stats read as a high scorer, I was shocked when finding out she had eight goals against Blackhawk and seven against Mars because it never feels like that many during the game,” Moran said. “She is a huge asset off the draw and we are excited to see what next year holds.”

Other key contributors to the golden gallop for the Colts included the play of senior captains Caleigh Bogats and Josie Jones, freshman goalie Kaitlyn Kuczinski, who had nearly 130 saves on the season, and freshman attackers Mallorie LaGamba and Ava Warzinski, who both tallied over 20 goals each.

After winning the district championship, Chartiers Valley added the program’s first PIAA postseason victory to its resume with a 17-4 win over District 10 champion Conneaut.

The dream season ended in the state quarterfinals when the Colts were clipped by District 1 power Strath Haven, 15-9.

“Being that it was playoffs and we were one week away from the championship, it definitely wasn’t easy,” Moran said. “There was so much going through my head all at once. First, just how proud I was of the girls for all their hard work all season, then I was replaying every scenario on what we could’ve done differently specifically for that game, then just remembering to be there for the seniors as it all came to an end. It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster.”

Moran says she enjoyed the ride all season and is already looking ahead to continue to improve what is becoming a powerful program.

“I think I’m most excited to continue to learn and grow as a team,” she said. “Last year I said I wanted to put CV on the map as legitimate competition. I think we did that this season. Now it’s about maintaining that mentality and adjusting to the seniors being gone. If we can continue to admit there’s always room for improvement, we will continue to improve. We have a great group of girls and more girls coming up that I’m excited about.”

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