Plum girls lacrosse off to strong start, aims to win 1st playoff game in program history

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Saturday, April 24, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Plum varsity girls lacrosse team hopes to make history this year with its first WPIAL playoff victory in its fifth year as a full member of the WPIAL.

The Mustangs are well on their way to giving themselves that opportunity.

Plum stood at 7-3 overall and 5-1 in Section 1-AA after a dramatic 10-9, last-second win over Franklin Regional on April 19 and a dominant 15-4 triumph over Greensburg Central Catholic two days later.

“This team has really come together since the start of the season with our goals and expectations,” said senior Gabbi Walkup, a co-captain with fellow seniors Megan Franzi and Maggie Anderson.

“There is a lot of youth on this team but also a lot of talent. We seem to be putting it all together at the right time.”

In 2018, Plum, as the No. 10 seed, made its WPIAL playoff debut and fell to Quaker Valley in the Class AA first round. It lost to Mars in the first round as the No. 12 seed in 2019.

The Mustangs hoped to build on those playoff trips last year, but the 2020 season was wiped out amidst the growing covid pandemic.

“Last year, we had a lot of potential going into the season,” Plum fourth-year coach Kayla Platt said.

“We felt we were going to do pretty well. The girls are trying to make up for not being on the field for an entire season. They want to keep going out there and prove to people what they can do. They are working hard to keep making a name for themselves.”

The top six teams from each Class AA section qualify for the playoffs.

Plum was to face section foe Latrobe on Friday, Greensburg Salem on Monday and Aquinas on Wednesday. All three games were to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Plum is slated to return to action May 4 against Hampton.

The WPIAL lacrosse playoff committee meets May 13 to seed the playoff brackets, and the playoffs tentatively are to begin May 17.

“We’ve kind of been playing each game with the mentality that it could be our last,” Franzi said.

“Last year, we had that opportunity to play taken away from us, and it was pretty frustrating. We look at this year as a gift, and we want to make the most of it. We’re really excited for what we can accomplish over the rest of the regular season and hopefully into the playoffs.”

The Mustangs are a youthful team that relies a lot on freshmen and sophomores.

“There are a lot of new faces on the field, and some kids are just learning the game,” Platt said.

Freshman attacker Rayla Smith leads the team in scoring with 34 goals through the 10 games.

She had one of the biggest goals in the history of Plum girls lacrosse as she tallied the winner with less than a second left against Franklin Regional.

The Mustangs rallied from an 8-6 deficit with three minutes left in regulation.

Goals from sophomore Kylie Fischer and freshman Sophie Anderson tied the score at eight. After Franklin Regional scored to take a 9-8 lead, Plum came back with another score from junior Olivia Navari with 32 seconds left and tied the game again.

“We called a timeout, and in the huddle, we told them that if they want to grow in their season and make it even more special, they had to come through with 100% heart,” Platt said.

“That’s what they did. They all rallied together.”

Smith scored four goals in the game, Fischer and Navari had two apiece, and Sophie Anderson and freshman Allie Venanzi each had one against the Panthers.

The win was the first against Franklin Regional.

“Coming off of the win against Franklin Regional was probably the happiest I’ve seen the team in a long time,” said Platt, a Franklin Regional grad who also coached in the Panthers program along with Plum assistant Dom Barnabei.

“Not only did they do it for themselves, but they did it for us coaches. Getting that win was something we’ve been trying to do for years. So far, we’ve done two things that we haven’t done in previous years and that is beat Franklin Regional and Oakland Catholic. It’s a year of firsts so far, and hopefully there are more firsts to come.”

Maggie and Sophie Anderson each had four goals to lead Plum against Greensburg Central Catholic. Smith tallied three goals, while Fischer, Navari, senior Victoria Salopek and freshman Fia Ricciardi recorded one goal apiece.

“The key to this team is just working together, from the seniors to the freshman,” Maggie Anderson said.

“We were excited coming into the season because we knew this would be different than in past seasons with the talent we have. We have really grown since the start.”

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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