Columbus’ scoring helps Norwin girls lacrosse to impressive start

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Friday, April 26, 2019 | 6:50 PM


Maura Columbus is a steady goal-scorer for the Norwin girls lacrosse team.

Through nine games, the senior midfielder had accounted for a team-high 23 goals, which included a seven-goal outburst April 18 in a 14-13 win in overtime against Indiana.

Columbus scored five goals against Baldwin and Hempfield and four versus South Fayette.

Perhaps her most complete game this season was against Hempfield. Along with her five goals, Columbus was credited with three assists and five ground balls controlled.

“Maura’s leadership on the field has been outstanding,” coach Drew Polczynski said. “Her skills and athleticism have a calming effect on the rest of the team. When other teams apply aggressive pressure, you can see her teammates relax a little, like they’re confident that we’ll maintain possession a little longer.

“Maura has a keen awareness of what’s going on around her. It makes her elusive in the open field. You can see opponents get frustrated when she makes them miss.”

Columbus, who plans to continue her lacrosse career at IUP, is a team captain along with senior defender Kiana Francis and junior goalkeeper Julia Ruzewski.

“We have some tough teams this year in our section, but I’m confident we can compete with them the rest of the season,” said Columbus, who also plays field hockey. “My goal is to win more draws each game, and to keep improving my shooting accuracy.”

Columbus is a member of the Interact, Peer Mentor and Buddy clubs at Norwin, and has competed in the offseason for True Lacrosse Pittsburgh club program.

The Knights’ offensive catalyst has been complemented by senior attacker Riley Miller and junior midfielder Maggie Edwards, the team leader in ground balls controlled.

Senior attackers Mady Roth, Kate Donofrio and Tara Figus, and junior midfielder Maddie Stratos also are starters for the Knights, who won five of their first nine contests.

On defense, it’s Ruzewski in the net, with support from Francis, senior Bri Hritz, and juniors Allie Astley and Sierra Miller.

“The girls have surpassed my expectations,” Polczynski said. “I don’t say that lightly because I expected them to be significantly improved over last season.

“We have a transition game this year, where last year, we just chucked the ball as far downfield as we could and tried to outrun our opponents. Having players all with a base level of skill has made it more fun to coach. And we’ve been able to work some of our JVs into the varsity games, which we weren’t doing at the beginning of the year.”

Polczynski offered high praise for his seniors and lauded the “unsung” performance on defense by Francis, who also has competed in soccer at Norwin as a forward/midfielder.

“As strong as Maura has been for us, she has some other strong leaders in her senior class,” Polczynski said. “Her fellow senior captain is Kiana Francis, who doesn’t get as much recognition because she’s a defenseman and doesn’t get the opportunity to score many goals. But her strength and speed make her unique because she has stick skills that rival Maura’s. Once in awhile, I’ll put her on attack to try to get an offensive spark. She hasn’t let me down yet.”

Francis also is a member of True Lacrosse Pittsburgh, and will continue her lacrosse career as a biology/pre-vet major at Mercyhurst.

She is anticipating a successful run for the Knights down the season’s home stretch.

Playing together as a team with all players involved will be a key.

“We’ve been improving with each game, especially the ones we lose,” Francis said. “We’ve lost to some good teams and we know what we need to work on. We’re happy about the strides we’ve made so far and can’t wait to improve more.”

“We’re expecting harder teams in our last few games, but we have confidence we can compete with them and do well. We know what we need to do in order to put ourselves ahead, and we’re going to utilize all of our players to succeed.”

Norwin has defeated Baldwin (17-2), South Fayette (13-4), Hempfield (19-9), Allderdice (15-1) and Indiana, and has outscored the opposition by a 96-92 overall margin.

Polczynski was particularly proud of the Knights’ performance in the overtime thriller at Indiana.

“It was good to be able to beat Indiana,” he said. “The two games we had against them last year weren’t very close, so to not only compete but actually beat them was a big confidence booster for our team.”

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