Plum girls lacrosse in hunt for Section 2 championship

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Sunday, April 17, 2022 | 4:07 PM


The Plum girls lacrosse team reached the midpoint of its Section 1-2A slate in contention for the section title.

The Mustangs, who are gearing up a nonsection clash with Class 3A Penn-Trafford on Friday, improved to 4-1 in section play and 5-2 overall with an intense 11-8 victory over rival Franklin Regional on April 13.

“It is our biggest rivalry game every year, and after winning by one goal last year on their senior night, we knew we had to come out strong,” sophomore midfielder Sophie Anderson said.

“They were out to avenge that loss. You could tell they were getting a little frustrated when they would turn the ball over. They were coming at us hard to try and come back, but we weren’t going to let them.”

The victory completed a two-game comeback of sorts after a 14-10 loss to section contender Indiana and a 14-4 loss to Section 2-2A stalwart Chartiers Valley.

Plum added the win over Franklin Regional to a 17-5 triumph over Oakland Catholic two days earlier.

“It was huge with it being such a big section game in our goal of winning the section title,” Anderson said. “We just put the loss to Indiana behind us and refocused to win all of our remaining section games.”

A section game at Greensburg Central Catholic scheduled for Wednesday was postponed, so Plum’s next section contest will be April 25 at home against Greensburg Salem.

Franklin Regional led Plum, 1-0 and 3-2, in the first half, but freshman Bella Difrancesca, Plum’s leading goal scorer with 21 through seven games, recorded a first-half tally, and junior Kylie Fischer scored the next three for the Mustangs as the teams went to halftime tied 4-4.

That’s when Plum took control.

The hosts recorded the next five goals, with Difrancesca and Fischer scoring again.

Smith, who scored the winner with 30 seconds left in last year’s 7-6 victory at Franklin Regional, scored three straight for Plum, which opened a 9-4 advantage with 16:50 left in the second half.

Franklin Regional closed the gap to three on three occasions down the stretch, including the final score, but Fischer found the back of the next two more times — she had six total for the game — to keep the Mustangs reasonably comfortable.

“We really brought our intensity and focus up for that second half,” sophomore Allie Venanzi said.

“The last 10-15 minutes were so intense. I had a girl pick my stick up and throw it on the track. We kept our composure, though. You could tell they were very aggressive and very physical, but I am glad we were able to keep pushing. It was a total team effort all over the field.

“Franklin Regional is our biggest game all season. Both of our coaches used to coach at Franklin. Our assistant coach went to Franklin. We had never been able to beat Franklin, so now doing it two years in a row, it is a really nice accomplishment.”

Senior co-captain Abbie Hayward made several key saves in goal in the second half to help preserve the victory.

Coming out of that game, Fischer’s six goals give her 19 for the season, and Smith, who played the last couple of games on a sore left knee, has 16. Anderson is up to 10 goals.

Junior Dannika Susko paces the team with 21 ground balls, and Smith leads the team in draw controls with 36.

“The Indiana game (April 4) was a tough one, and everyone was upset that we lost,” Smith said. “We all felt we didn’t play our best game in that one. After that game and the game against Chartiers Valley, you would think we would be down on ourselves, but we were ready to come back this week and get a couple wins in two really important games.”

Plum came into this season after earning the No. 7 seed for the 2021 WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. The youthful Mustangs suffered a 15-8 loss to perennial playoff qualifier Quaker Valley in the first round.

Smith earned All-WPIAL honors after scoring more than 40 goals in her first varsity season, and Venanzi and Anderson enjoyed breakout freshman seasons and picked up second-team all-section nods.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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