Plum girls lacrosse gaining confidence during playoff push

Friday, April 27, 2018 | 11:00 PM

Plum girls lacrosse is in a similar position to its inaugural WPIAL season a year ago, hovering around the fourth and final postseason spot in the Section 2-AA standings.

The Mustangs missed the playoffs by one spot a year ago, but this time they feel like they are better equipped with knowledge of the game to finish the job and become the first team in the program's brief history to reach the postseason.

Plum entered the week 5-4 overall and fourth in the section standings at 4-4, as it delves into the second half of section play.

“I think that's what's fueling the team right now,” junior midfielder Alexa Seigh said. “Knowing the position we are in has us all very excited. That's our goal. We want to be the first girls lacrosse team from Plum to make the postseason.”

Since arriving in October, first-year coach Kayla Platt, a former all-WPIAL player and assistant at Franklin Regional, has been working to enhance the team's technical ability and at the same time bringing up their confidence level. Platt credited her assistants Leah Pace, a former Division I player at High Point, and Dom Barnabie as being integral parts to the team's success.

“We've improved on basic stick skills and overall field sense,” Platt said. “A couple of things we need to continue to improve on is players remaining confident on the field, being more fluid and positive no matter what happens and not getting down on ourselves.”

The introduction to the terminology from Platt took some time. Seigh and Tifani McElhose both admitted they weren't aware of the nuances of the game last year and didn't really know much about the strategy involved.

“When she came in she brought all kinds of stuff with her and right off the bat she could tell that we didn't know too much,” Seigh said. “It was an adjustment, but it's been fun to learn a lot more about the sport. We were just kind of going out there and playing last year. Now we understand it better, and that's a huge difference.”

“When I first started playing, I had no clue what I was doing. I'd go on the field, run and get the ball and then take a shot,” McElhose said. “Now I know that if I don't have the shot I can pull back and find someone to pass to. It's become a lot easier to know what to do.”

Platt has former NFL player- turned-trainer Darnell Dinkins work with the team once a week on agility drills. Dinkins sets up cones for workouts that are designed to improve footwork with lacrosse concepts mixed in.

The Mustangs have already seen the benefit from the training in game action.

“When I see a ball coming toward me that I know I'm not going to catch or it's thrown over my head, I can change my feet faster so I can run backwards, so I can catch it,” McElhose said. “It's definitely paid off for our midfielders too, because they're running back and forth the whole game, so they have to change their feet quicker.”

Along with Sam Casile, Seigh and McElhose are the leading scorers. Casile had 24 goals through eight games. Seigh leads the team in faceoff and ground ball percentage.

Plum scored wins over Yough twice, Knoch, Greensburg Salem and Greensburg Central Catholic in the first half of the season. The Mustangs dropped games to Ellis School, Oakland Catholic twice and Franklin Regional. Oakland Catholic was the Class AAA runner-up last year, and Franklin Regional made the semifinals.

The loss to Ellis was a tight 12-9 decision and winning the rematch Tuesday would go a long way toward cementing a playoff bid. Greensburg Central Catholic and Knoch are chasing them in the standings, and the Mustangs play both teams once more.

“The match with Ellis was the point where we saw that we needed to play with more confidence,” Platt said. “Each player has progressed so much that I don't have a doubt in my mind that they can do it. I always say to my players that it comes down to the team with the most heart.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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