Defending girls lacrosse champion Chartiers Valley relished being the hunted

Sunday, May 21, 2023 | 11:01 AM

A year ago, the Chartiers Valley girls lacrosse team finished in third place in its section, but put together a golden run in the WPIAL playoffs to win a district championship.

However, when teams win any kind of title, whether it was expected or not, they quickly go from being the hunter to the hunted.

“I think naturally any team who won the WPIAL the year before is going to draw more eyes or have a target on their back,” CV coach Melissa Moran said. “It’s a blessing and a curse because it’s nice to be in the conversation and held amongst top teams, however, it also adds pressure.”

The Colts endured all the slings the target brought and ended up in the same place after the regular season this year that they did a year ago.

Chartiers Valley finished tied for third place and was seeded No. 5 in the 2023 WPIAL girls lacrosse bracket. They defeated No. 12 Latrobe, 19-2, in the first round and advanced to play No. 4 Hampton in the quarterfinals.

“This season has been unorthodox to say the least,” Moran said. “We have endured several injuries throughout the season that have caused key players to be out for weeks at a time, or in Kaitlyn Kuczinski’s case, season ending. While it has been tough staying healthy, our team has managed to maintain a winning record and fight through adversity. The mentality has truly been to take each game, one game at a time.”

The Colts finished 8-3 in the section and 11-5 overall, tying Quaker Valley for third place behind perennial powers Mars and Blackhawk.

“I think Mars, Blackhawk and Quaker Valley are very talented teams,” Moran said. “I think we didn’t play our best against any of them and, unfortunately, it was a bad day to have a bad day. My hope is to be healthy in the postseason and have another opportunity to see them. I’m always impressed with the competition each team brings.”

There were many players who stepped up through the many injuries to help the Colts to a strong season.

“Midfielder Juliana Betts (sophomore) has had another outstanding season,” Moran said, highlighting Betts’ 46 goals, 17 assists and 83 draw controls.

Betts surpassed 100 goals and also tallied her 200th draw control and 50th assist this season.

Senior attacker Tatiana Adzima added 48 goals, sophomore Mallorie LaGamba averaged three goals a game, has 33 this season and also scored her 50th career goal.

Moran also mentioned that sophomore midfielder Ava Warzinski (15 goals, 25 assists and 40 draw controls) and senior midfielder Sage Gojsovich (30 goals, 24 assists and 17 draw controls) are well-rounded players.

The back end of the lineup was also strong for the Colts, including sophomore Natalia Palumbo with 22 caused turnovers, 18 ground balls and 15 draw controls, and sophomore Ava Antonucci, who has 22 caused turnovers and 21 ground balls. Senior Maddie Sams had added 16 ground balls, as well as three goals and two assists.

“Defensively, Natalia Palumbo is a stud all over the field,” Moran said. “Ava Antonucci has been a surprise this year making the change from attack to defense. Senior captain Maddie Sams has been great in transition all year helping the Colts move the ball up field.”

Goalie Kaitlyn Kuczinski suffered an injury and only played in five games, making 19 saves in total. Senior Ariana Tornabene stepped into the starting role and has made 39 saves. Sophomore Ashlyn Tornabene has made 15 saves, as well.

With so many young players contributing to this season’s success, Moran is already looking forward to next spring.

“I am very excited about the future of Chartiers Valley lacrosse,” Moran said. “Our youth organization has done a nice job the last 10 years in building interest in the community that has benefited the high school team immensely. Our current team is 90% underclassmen, so the future of this program has time on their side to help continue to develop these players to their fullest potential. I am proud of how far the program has come the last few years and look forward to seeing where it will go.”


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