Mars tops Blackhawk for WPIAL girls lacrosse title in OT thriller

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 | 11:54 PM

Mya Cote’s fourth goal of the game 1 minute, 42 seconds into overtime sent Mars to a 10-9 victory over Blackhawk and gave the Fightin’ Planets their second WPIAL Class 2A girls lacrosse title in three seasons.

The lead for Mars was the first of the game in a contest that saw both teams score in the final minute of regulation.

“I tried to trust myself from scoring goals in the past,” Cote said. “This was obviously a trickier game, and that was playing in my head more than usual, but I had to have faith in myself.”

The Cougars took an 8-5 lead with under 10 minutes remaining after Andrea Kinger scored her first goal of the game.

But the McGrath sisters, Tess and Anna, scored goals in less than a minute to pull Mars within a goal. Then Anna McGrath evened the score 8-8 with 5:32 remaining.

Mars had possession but was called for a moving pick, and on the ensuing Blackhawk possession, Kinger was fouled and awarded a free position shot. The sophomore converted for her 26th goal of the year, and the Cougars led 9-8 with 57 seconds left.

Blackhawk won the ensuing faceoff, but Cote, a St. Joseph recruit, created a turnover with a nifty trail check, and Tess McGrath eventually worked the ball to Kennedy Kolson for her second tally of the evening, tying the game 9-9 with 33 seconds left in regulation.

Cote was trying to get the ball back any way she could after Mars fell behind in the last minute.

“For sure,” she said. “Defense wins championships. You need to get possession of the ball from defense to win on offense.”

Mars (20-1) won the draw to start overtime, which led to heroics from Cote, the junior midfielder.

Anna McGrath finished the night with a goal and two assists, while her sister Anna added a pair of assists to go with her two tallies.

Duquesne commit Charlotte Stamper had a goal and assist for Mars, which also defeated Blackhawk, 10-3, in 2021 to capture its first championship. Sophomore Ella Roach made 10 saves in net for Mars to earn the win.

The Fightin’ Planets finished as the 2A runner-up last season to Chartiers Valley, so the win was an exciting end to a year-long journey, Mars coach Abby Latona said.

“We’ve been working towards this since the day after we lost last year,” Latona said. “The players worked so hard to change the outcome this year. I’m so proud of them.”

Despite never leading until the end and trailing by five goals at one point, Mars switched to an aggressive defense, and that was a key factor in the win, according to Latona.

“Our strategy was to stay focused and to get some goals, and running the box (on defense) really helped us to stop their attack, and our girls delivered,” Latona said.

The Mars offense was able to rally with a simple message from the coaching staff.

“Attack mentality,” Latona said. “Possess the ball and play as a team in order to get this win, and that’s exactly what they did.”

The third-seeded Cougars (15-2) were paced by Kinger, Chloe Huston and Mia Piocquidio with two goals apiece. Kinger added an assist, while Ava Pagani and Ryleigh McKnight each added a goal in the contest for Blackhawk.

Both Mars and Blackhawk head to the PIAA Class 2A playoffs, which are set to begin Tuesday, June 6.

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