Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional lacrosse standouts light up scoreboard, lead teams

Tuesday, May 9, 2023 | 11:01 AM

When inclement weather hits Western Pennsylvania during spring sports season, baseball, softball and tennis teams often go into hiding under an umbrella of postponements.

But not lacrosse teams.

Come rain or shine, warm or cold, they are playing, often at night under the lights.

For Penn-Trafford girls lacrosse and junior captain Sophia Green, it’s been about weathering a playoff drought.

“You never know what you’re going to get for weather during lacrosse season, especially in Pittsburgh,” Green said. “We are very fortunate to play on turf all season, so we truly play through all the conditions from freezing rain and hail to sunshine. Lacrosse players have to be mentally and physically tough and prepared for all conditions.”

And growing pains. Penn-Trafford has been pushing for a playoff spot since it formed a team and started playing WPIAL competition in 2017.

At Franklin Regional, senior Gwen Shilling is a little more accustomed to making the playoffs. The Panthers have made it every year she has played.

But the feeling never gets old.

“We have become a very well-balanced team and had some very good team wins,” Shilling said. “We had a few close losses, but they were definitely learning experiences for the team as a whole.”

Shilling has become a key cog in the Panthers’ attack.

“She reads defenses really well and knows when to drive versus when to feed,” Franklin Regional coach Regan McComb said. “She knows when to re-drive after defense crashes on her, and she times her cuts very well.

“She also has become a very confident player and helps to keep calm, confident energy on our attack.”

Green and Shilling have a lot in common as they prepare to begin postseason runs with their teams.

Both have scored 100 career goals, and both have brothers who have made significant contributions to athletic programs at their respective schools.

Shilling grew up playing hockey with Nolan Shilling, her twin brother, who plays hockey and golf at Franklin Regional.

Nolan Shilling, who plans to play golf at Youngstown State, shares a toughness with his sister, who since has placed her focus on lacrosse and golf.

“Hockey became too much of a risk for injury for me, so I decided to stop playing,” she said.

Green said her brother, Carter, who moved on to play lacrosse at Seton Hill after a stellar two-sport career at Penn-Trafford as a lacrosse player and quarterback, influenced her career.

“He taught me all my skills,” she said. “I remember in fifth grade he was teaching me how to shoot in our backyard and still today he is my role model for lacrosse, always motivating me to be better and learn new skills.”

Green, who has 60 goals this season, brings a well-rounded game to the Warriors.

“Sophia is very coachable and a great teammate,” Penn-Trafford coach Rich Viclocky said. “She is able to play with both finesse and power, which makes her difficult to defend. She doesn’t just score. She can also distribute the ball. Sophia doesn’t take any plays off. Just because she’s on attack doesn’t mean she doesn’t play defense. She is third on the team in caused turnovers behind middie Anabelle Aquino and defender Adalyn Hawk.”

Green’s favorite childhood toy is a trampoline. She has seen ups and downs of a burgeoning program.

“Lacrosse has been such a big part of my life, and finally being able to help get my team to the playoffs for the first time in P-T girls lacrosse history feels great,” Green said. “I feel very accomplished, and it’s great to be able to share this experience with all my amazing teammates who have given nonstop effort to reach this goal.”

Green said distributing the ball is her first objective on the field. Goals are a secondary focus.

“Assists are very important in lacrosse to get the best looks for goals, so distribution of the ball is a main focus of mine during the game and even in practice to improve upon it as much as I can,” she said. “Defense, though I am an attacker, during clears is very important. Riding to get a turnover for another round of possession for your team is something we focus a lot on in practice and games.”

Green, who also plays volleyball, said she thinks Penn-Trafford girls lacrosse is here to stay. The playoff berth likely will fuel participation.

“With our new girls youth program that started in 2021, more girls are being exposed to the sport at a younger age and become important factors on our high school team because they have already developed skills and can only go up,” Green said.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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