Pine-Richland girls lacrosse standouts play in national tournament

Saturday, June 5, 2021 | 11:34 AM

A quartet of Pine-Richland girls lacrosse players spent Memorial Day weekend playing alongside some of the best high school players in the country and came home with an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

Caroline Gentile, Mary Dziubek, Zoe Katres and Erica Hudock played for Team Pittsburgh at the USA Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament in Bel Air, Md.

Team Pittsburgh went 2-1 in pool play May 29 and defeated Arizona, 10-8, a day later to finish in third place in their division.

“It felt really good to play with the best players from the WPIAL and against some of the best in the country,” Dziubek said. “It helped me see where I am compared to those from outside the region. It was a good learning experience and a lot of fun.”

Team Pittsburgh was composed of girls from across the WPIAL, and all four Rams that made the team had to go through a difficult tryout. Being selected was rewarding in itself.

“During tryouts, I told myself to give it my all and have fun with it,” Katres said. “That’s how I always feel about lacrosse. At the end of tryouts, I was pretty neutral about how I did and it was a nice surprise to learn I made the team. I see the other three every day in practice, and those girls have so much talent, so I was happy to see that we all made it. I know how much effort each one of them has put into it.”

Team Pittsburgh had only one practice together prior to the tournament but adapted quickly, earning wins over Tennessee and Kentucky before falling to Gulf Coast (Florida) in pool play.

There was a positive impact on an individual level for all four girls. They also got exposure to more than 30 college coaches that were on hand to scout.

Gentile, a sophomore, was an all-section player this spring for the Rams. She scored a pair of goals in the first game at nationals.

“I just wanted to play with my best effort,” Gentile said. “Sometimes I used to get a little nervous and stand back, but I’ve grown to be more aggressive and I try to be involved in as many plays as I can. If there was a loose ball, then I wanted to go for it and be aggressive. I felt I did that well.”

Katres, a junior goalie, said she had some struggles at times with the nature of goaltending, because she’s a perfectionist who doesn’t like giving up any goals. She’s found a good balance mentally and became a second-team all-section player. Making Team Pittsburgh was an added boost of confidence.

“When you’re a goalie, it’s always a mental game with every goal you give up or every save you make,” Katres said.

“It’s a matter of knowing that if a goal goes in that you’re going to stop the next shot. You have to be in that mode, and making this team allowed me to believe in myself. It also showed me how good everyone in our area from different school districts is. It was an honor to play with them.”

Dziubek had a breakout season as a defender. She was slated to be a junior varsity player last year prior to the season being shut down due to the covid-19 pandemic. During the shutdown, she went to work on improving her game and it paid dividends.

“I spent two to three hours every day in the backyard working on my game,” Dziubek said.

“This year, I really wanted to make varsity, because my goal is to play Division I lacrosse in college. Being on a (Pine-Richland) team that had a lot of seniors and really good defenders pushed me to earn a spot on the team. I feel I’ve improved a lot, and when (Pine-Richland) coach (Brittany) Adams asked me to try out for the national team, I felt honored and humbled. I also felt that it was a lot of hard work paying off.”

Hudock shined in the midfield for the Rams. Playing at nationals gave her perspective on how much growth girls lacrosse has seen across the country.

“It was an extremely great experience to see different teams from all over and compare my own skill set with others, but to see how a team from the East Coast compares to a West Coast team as well,” Hudock said.

“There’s definitely a difference in playing styles and the overall speed of the game from team to team. It was good to see the Pittsburgh girls come together.”

All four return for the Rams next year and will provide a solid core for a team that won, 17-1, over Canon-McMillan in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs before falling to Upper St. Clair, 11-8, in the quarterfinals.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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