Optimistic Plum girls lacrosse team seeks 1st playoff victory

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Sunday, May 15, 2022 | 6:16 PM


Heading into this season, the Plum girls lacrosse team already had experienced the WPIAL playoffs three times in its young history.

The first trip came in 2018 in only its second full season in the WPIAL. As the No. 10 seed for the Class 2A playoffs, the Mustangs lost to Quaker Valley, 13-3, in the first round.

A year later, as the No. 12 seed, Plum lost to Mars, 18-6, in the opening round.

The Mustangs moved up to the seventh seed last year, but again they were denied a first playoff victory with a 15-8 loss to Quaker Valley in the first round.

But the Plum players feel an air of optimism this time around.

With 13 wins in 16 regular-season games, a third-place finish (8-2) in Section 1-2A behind Hampton and Indiana and a great deal of momentum with five straight victories, the Mustangs hope the fourth time is the charm.

They will put their skill and optimism to the test Monday at home as the No. 6 seed in the Class 2A first round against No. 11 Seton LaSalle.

“It’s is heartwarming to know that I am going to play one more game on my home field with all the girls I’ve grown up playing with,” senior attacker Olivia Navari said. “It’s a great feeling to know we’ve worked hard to be able to achieve a home-field advantage (for the playoffs) two years in a row.”

Monday’s first-round matchup is set for 8 p.m. at Mustangs Stadium.

“Everyone is really hyped up and ready for this game,” senior goalkeeper Abagail Hayward said. “The first step was winning all of those games to get to this point. That goal was achieved, and now we’re on to the next goal, which is beating Seton LaSalle.”

Hayward, Navari and fellow senior Caroline Hunter were celebrated Thursday at home before an 18-9 victory over Hempfield.

But they knew before they arrived that it wouldn’t be their last home game as the playoff pairings were announced earlier in the day.

If Plum is able to get past Seton LaSalle, it will get another crack at Section 1 champion Hampton in the quarterfinals. The No. 3 Talbots, who received a bye past the first round, handled Plum, 17-6 ,in Allison Park on May 2.

“We can’t look ahead,” Hunter said. “All season, we’ve focused on the game right in front of us. We’d love to play Hampton again, but right now, all we’re focused on is Seton.”

Seton LaSalle (4-10) finished as the sixth-place team from Section 2.

“We’re in a really good place right now, and we’re working really well as a team,” junior attacker Kylie Fischer said. “We’ve built off of each other. We’ve had a lot of good wins, Aquinas (8-7) and Franklin Regional (11-8). I think that we can go far in the playoffs if we play our best.”

Plum went 3-0 this past week as it capped section play with a 15-2 win over Greensburg Central Catholic on Monday and topped Knoch, 10-6, in a nonsection game Wednesday before Thursday’s triumph over Hempfield.

“It was a busy week of games, so there wasn’t much time to get practice in,” Hunter said. “With these games, it was nice to work on everything we need to be ready for the playoffs. … Everyone is excited, especially the freshman and other new players this season who have never played in a playoff game before, to have this opportunity with home-field advantage.”

Plum is averaging 13.2 goals a game.

Against Hempfield, the Mustangs got six goals apiece from Fischer and sophomore attacker Rayla Smith. Junior defender Dannika Susko tallied a pair of goals in the victory, while junior Maddie Bevacqua, sophomore Allie Venanzi, and freshmen Emma Varner and Taylor Knisely each scored once.

Smith reached a milestone in Monday’s win over GCC. She scored five goals in the game, and the first was the 100th of her varsity career.

“Going into it, I just wanted to win the game, and I wasn’t concentrating too much on what I needed to get,” said Smith, who now has 114 career goals after the Hempfield victory.

“I got the goal, and we went onto the next play. I celebrated a little bit after. It’s nice to say that I have that many goals so far, but it’s even better to know that I can do that and help my team win. We’re all super excited for this playoff game.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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