FR girls lacrosse retools after graduating 8 senior starters from WPIAL semifinalist

Friday, March 29, 2019 | 8:11 PM

The 2018 season was special for the Franklin Regional girls lacrosse team, but the Panthers aren’t looking back.

The Panthers, 14-4 last season, came up just short of a berth in the WPIAL championship game under first-year coach and Franklin Regional alum Mackenzie McGuire. But they made the PIAA playoffs for just the second time in school history.

“It was a great season and a great experience,” McGuire said. “The seniors really led the girls, and it stunk going out the way we did, losing in overtime in the semifinals. But they learned a lot throughout the season and their hard work showed that.”

The Panthers will have a different look after the graduation of eight starters. While those losses will be felt, FR returns its top two scorers: juniors Noelle Boyd and Christiana Hodawanec.

As sophomores, the midfielders combined for 44 percent of Franklin Regional’s goals. Boyd, who earned all-section and All-WPIAL honors, scored 53, and Hodawanec had 59.

“They are both phenomenal players, offensively and defensively,” McGuire said. “But we are working on not relying on them for everything. Once our girls realize every player is as important as the next, we will see the change of our scores and the outcomes of our games.”

Among the other key returning players are goalkeeper Kendra Delissio and midfielder Lauren Callahan. Callahan, however, is injured, and her return date is unknown. Callahan likely was going to move from attack to midfield to pair with Boyd and Hodawanec.

“They are very good players, but they are also very smart players,” McGuire said. “They see the game, and they are able to look two plays ahead. So I think having all of them on both ends of the field will be huge for us.”

During last season’s run, the underclassmen provided solid contributions while also gaining invaluable experience.

That being said, McGuire and the Panthers are looking to build for the future. With just one senior returning and 15 of their 27 players being freshmen and sophomores, they will have almost their whole roster for this season and next.

“We are extremely young this year. We have six upperclassmen starting, and all of them are juniors,” McGuire said. “But the good thing about that is we are all in this together, and the team we build this year we will have for the next two years.”

What the Panthers lack at the moment is game experience and field awareness, McGuire said. Those attributes come with game reps, and that will come in waves as McGuire has set up a schedule that will feature nonsection games against competitive Class AAA teams.

“I think playing against these teams that can move the ball down the field in three quick passes is something we can learn from and carry over into our section games,” McGuire said. “Our section games are teams more of our caliber and our level. So I am hoping that learning from what we are seeing in the AAA games is something we are able to bring into our own game.”

While the Panthers might have their share of challenges, McGuire still is looking for her team to remain competitive and continue improving. Franklin Regional opened the season with a loss to North Allegheny, followed by a win over Trinity.

“I still want us to place in the top of our section, and I do think that is possible,” McGuire said. “It won’t be as easy as it was last year, but I think if we work together and our players take in everything we present to them at practice, it’s possible.”


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