Fundamental approach pays off for Norwin girls lacrosse

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Friday, April 12, 2019 | 6:55 PM


Norwin’s girls lacrosse team worked diligently on fundamentals last year.

This season, the Knights are more fundamentally sound, splitting their first four decisions to start 2-2.

“The other coaches and I are extremely pleased with the team’s performance this season,” coach Drew Polczynski said. “Because we had so many players who were new to the sport a year ago, most of what we did in practices centered around the fundamentals: passing, catching and cradling. We didn’t implement much of an offense. Our strategy for clearing the defensive zone was to chuck the ball down field as far as we could and hope for the best.”

Norwin has been led in the early going by senior midfielder Maura Columbus, who has 10 goals, senior attacker Riley Miller (seven goals) and junior midfielder Maggie Edwards (10 ground balls controlled and three interceptions).

They are joined in the starting lineup by senior attackers Mady Roth, Kate Donofrio and Tara Figus and junior midfielder Maddie Stratos.

On the defensive end, junior goalkeeper Julia Ruzewski is flanked by seniors Kiana Francis and Bri Hritz, and juniors Allie Astley and Sierra Miller.

“So far this season, the team has been pretty strong,” Francis said. “We’ve definitely improved since last year, and we’ve only played a few games. I’m excited to see how good we’ll be by the end of the season.

“One of our biggest strengths is how close we are with each other. I consider most of the people on this team to be my closest friends, especially my fellow seniors.”

Francis, who is a member of the True Pittsburgh Lacrosse club program, also has played soccer at Norwin as a forward/midfielder. She plans to continue her lacrosse career as a biology/pre-vet major at Mercyhurst.

“It will be a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it in the end,” said Francis, who owns a 3.5 GPA. “Lacrosse is just so much more relaxing for me (than soccer), and I love every second that I’m at practice. Outside of school, I play for a club lacrosse team, and that club taught me so much. I will be forever grateful.”

Key reserves for the Knights include senior attackers Emma Muoio and Riley Wian, junior defender Cassie Cole and senior goalkeeper Kendra Scheideman.

“The coaches and I regularly talk among ourselves about what a great bunch of kids we have,” said Polczynski. “There’s no drama that works its way into practice or games. None of them are selfish. They encourage each other in drills as well as game situations. And I think that all comes from the leadership of our captains.

“So the short answer is that the team’s biggest strengths are the character of the kids and the leadership from our captains.”

The Knights are hoping to make a strong push into the postseason, and a deeper run in the playoffs.

Norwin tied for fourth with Latrobe in Section 3-AAA last season, both with 7-7 records. Fox Chapel (13-1), Shady Side Academy (13-1) and Indiana (10-4) corralled the top three spots.

The Knights lost to Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL first round last spring.

“Our goal is to make it to the WPIAL playoffs and be the first Norwin girls lacrosse team to make it past the first round,” Francis said. “… We think we have what it takes to hang with the top dogs. This season will definitely be one to remember.”

Norwin is a member of Section 1-AAA, along with Allderdice, Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Hempfield, Latrobe, Mt. Lebanon, Penn-Trafford, Peters Township and USC.

“We expect to win the WPIAL title, of course,” Polczynski said. “If that’s not the expectation, then why play the games in the first place?”

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