Playoff berth, emergence of top scorer highlight North Hills girls lacrosse season

Saturday, June 24, 2023 | 11:34 AM

North Hills’ girls lacrosse team’s 2023 season was a strong step forward for the program. And it was one highlighted by noteworthy obstacles overcome, the emergence of an offensive star and solid team play on a nightly basis.

The Indians finished the year 11-8, qualifying for the WPIAL postseason for the first time since 2018.

“It was a great season,” said coach Jim Cassandro. “Any coach, when they’re getting ready to start the season, always looks through the schedule and says, ‘This should be a win, this should be a win, this one’s going to be tough, and this one we’re going to have to play a perfect game to beat this team.’ I did that again this year, and I think we exceeded my expectations for what I thought the year would be.”

Following a 1-2 start to the season, North Hills took off, gaining steam as it won nine of the next 11 games.

“We have an extremely tough section,” Cassandro said. “And when you look through and start looking at the teams that are predominantly powerhouses in the league, you assume that they’re going to make the playoffs. As the year went on and we started knocking off teams that in the past have maybe beaten us, we started to get a pretty good feel for the season and started to build confidence… and the girls started believing in themselves.”

Highlighting that strong midseason run was a victory over rival North Allegheny, 13-12, on May 1. The Indians jumped out to a halftime lead before having to hold off the Tigers with a pair of late goals from unsuspecting options after leading scorer Abby Krogmann left the game with eight minutes to play.

“We had to do it without her, and that was a tremendous feat for our girls,” Cassandro said. “We had two girls step up that haven’t scored a lot of goals. First, Kaycee Cleric, and then Emma Patsilevas got the game-winning goal with about a minute or so to go. The girls, I’ve never seen them celebrate so hard as they did that night. It was a lot of fun.”

The game foreshadowed the resiliency that North Hills would need a couple of weeks later in the WPIAL Class 3A first round.

Playing without Krogmann — a Duquesne recruit who scored 90 goals the season — due to a red card, and 60-goal scorer Jessica Dwyer, who was ineligible for the postseason following her transfer from Shaler before the school year, the Indians managed to knock off Sewickley Academy, 12-9.

“We went in sort of as underdogs, and we went in with 140-some goals between them sitting on the bench,” Cassandro said. “So we were sort of surprised with the outcome. The girls rallied, and we put a game plan together, and we were able to get some other girls scoring goals.”

Two days later, the Indians’ season came to an end with a 16-6 loss at Mt. Lebanon in the quarterfinals.

The defeat ended the high school careers for nine seniors who will need to be replaced moving forward into the 2024 season. In addition to Dwyer, defenders Veronica Sciulli and Josie Brackman, as well as key defensive sub Maggie Adkins, will need to have their positions filled. Versatile midfielder Alyssa Rosatone also departs due to graduation.

“We had a really solid defense,” Cassandro said. “And our goalie play was phenomenal. We had a first team all-section goalie this year in Gianna Reed. She was remarkable. She won a couple of games for us on her own.”

Reed will return for her senior season, as will Kroggman, who gives North Hills a consistently dangerous offensive threat.

“She has phenomenal speed,” Cassandro added. “In my 11 years as head coach, she probably has the best flat-out speed that I’ve coached. She can run, and her stick skills are getting better each year. And she can just find the net. And when she gets a little chip on her shoulder, she’s unstoppable.”

The breakthrough into the postseason was a nice accomplishment for the Indians, who now look to take a step forward. And, although there are a number of graduating players, the future appears to be bright with a strong group of underclassmen to go along with a dynamic threat around the net.

“Anytime you have a 90-goal score coming back, you’re going to be pretty positive,” Cassandro said. “So I think the girls are pretty excited for next year. Hopefully we pick up where we left off.”


More High School Lacrosse

Sewickley Academy lacrosse defender delivers important message about mental health
Sewickley Academy rising seniors Libby Eannarino, Ashley Close look forward to promising ’24 lacrosse season
Senior all-section honorees helped lead Quaker Valley to boys lacrosse playoffs
Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy girls lacrosse players pick up postseason awards
Seniors play key role in Pine-Richland girls lacrosse’s return to championship form