Penn-Trafford, Latrobe meet again for WPIAL Class AA field hockey title

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Sunday, October 27, 2019 | 5:46 PM


Penn-Trafford is looking to maintain its dynasty status.

Latrobe is hoping to claim its first WPIAL title in field hockey.

The friendly rivals will clash at 7:30 p.m on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Fox Chapel in a repeat of last year’s championship game matchup.

P-T edged Latrobe, 1-0, last year to win its third consecutive title but spent most of this season in rebuilding mode.

“We are a relatively young team, with expectations to defend a Class AA WPIAL title,” P-T coach Cindy Dutt said. “That is a lot to carry. My girls face some strong teams as we play in Division I with Class AAA teams. It takes its toll on players who are working to develop their play. … We played the toughest teams, and I believe that really improved our overall skill. It made us stronger and hopefully put us in the position to defend our WPIAL title against Greater Latrobe.”

Penn-Trafford, which received a first-round playoff bye, posted a 5-9 regular-season record, which included a 2-0 victory against the Wildcats. Latrobe finished with a 3-10 mark and beat Oakland Catholic, 1-0, in the WPIAL first round.

“We’ve always been strong on defense and goalkeeping, and we’ve been scoring better in the last half of the season,” Latrobe coach Jeff Giordan said. “We found out in the semifinal that all we need is one goal to win, though we would likely need a few more against Penn-Trafford.”

Penn-Trafford has been propelled by senior goalkeeper Sam Dougherty (86 saves) and a defensive corps consisting of juniors Paige Goggin (12 defensive saves), Maria DiNapoli and Claire Tylka. Dougherty is the lone senior on the squad.

“Our defensive unit has become quite effective at keeping opponents out of scoring position,” Dutt said. “Sam has had a really good season in the cage.”

Carleigh Drakulic, a junior midfielder/defender, is a key player for the Warriors.

“Her efforts on both offense and defense don’t earn many stats,” Dutt said, “but are essential in moving the ball.”

Junior forward Allyson Doran leads the Warriors in scoring and assists, complemented by midfielders Emma Little and Julia Moorhead, and forwards Nina Bowling and Hannah Ondulich.

“We also have been blessed with much talent in our sophomores, Delaney Lentz (MF/D) and Delaney Shusko (MF/F),” Dutt said. “These two girls can play anywhere on the field and make great plays.”

Doran has scored eight goals, and Shusko has seven.

“All I know is we have all worked hard to put the team in a position to earn the bye and play in the finals,” Dutt said. “They are hungry for a win and ready to defend their title.”

Penn-Trafford is one of only four teams to play for the Class AA title. Latrobe, Oakland Catholic and Woodland Hills make up the rest of Class AA and compete in Division II.

Field hockey became a fully funded sport at Latrobe less than three years ago.

“As I look at the final, we are definitely the underdog,” Giordan said. “Penn-Trafford has found a way to win every season, and coach Dutt will do her usual best to make it four. Our regular-season game was very competitive and though we lost, I reminded them that it was early in the season and playing that well against the defending champions was a definite plus.”

Latrobe’s leading scorer is junior forward Lauren Jones, with 12 goals and 3 assists. She is bolstered on offense by a pair of freshman standouts, forward/midfielder Lauren Sapp and forward Megan Brackney.

“I know Penn-Trafford will be keying on shutting down Lauren (Jones),” Giordan said. “Lauren (Sapp) and Megan will need to support Jones in putting shots on goal.

“Their defense will be strong and having senior Sam Doherty in goal again will prove to be tough. We just have to find a way to score as well as defend against their forwards and midfield.”

Latrobe utilizes a two-goalie rotation system featuring juniors Marissa Novak and Gracie Blycheck. They are supported by seniors Emily Hoffman and Lauren Stanley, junior CeCe Daniele and sophomore Harley Cochran.

The midfield area is covered by a multitude of athletes led by senior Sophia Stynchula, juniors Jordan Desko and Mercedes Manners, plus sophomores Kelsie Irons, Jenna Mucci and Haley Wojtseck. Josie Straigis, Lauren Noonan and Jenna Tallman are top freshman midfield prospects.

Brackney connected on Latrobe’s game-winning goal off a Jones assist against Oakland Catholic in the WPIAL first round. Blycheck and Novak combined on the shutout.

“I expected a close game against Oakland Catholic, and it played out exactly that way,” Giordan said. “I was concerned the playoff experience the Eagles gained the past few seasons, along with a new level of game pressure, may have an effect on the outcome.

“Despite being down a player for two minutes and a barrage of opportunities by Oakland Catholic, including two straight penalty corner chances (the last as time expired), the team found the will to keep the ball out of the goal and win the game.”

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