Quaker Valley girls lacrosse eyes postseason run

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Sunday, May 14, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Quaker Valley’s girls lacrosse team is playoff bound.

The fast and athletic Quakers secured a WPIAL Class 2A playoff berth by winning nine of their first 11 games this season. After starting 1-1, QV racked up seven straight victories and hit double digits seven times.

The impressive and nearly season-long winning streak came against Moon, 15-7, North Catholic, 14-10, defending WPIAL champion Chartiers Valley, 14-8, Trinity, 21-1, Knoch, 13-6, Ambridge, 26-0, and Franklin Regional, 15-4.

“I’ve been very impressed with the girls’ performance,” QV coach Laura Peery said. “We have shown a lot of growth throughout the season and the girls have really come together to compete as a unit.

“Our seniors have been the driving force, pushing their teammates to do their best and have gained the respect of their peers. They really leave everything out on the field each and every game.”

The Quakers, led by senior midfielder Shannon Von Kaenel, were 11-4 record (8-3 in section play) after a 15-10 win against local rival Sewickley Academy and a 10-7 loss to Canon-McMillan last week. The Quakers have outscored the opposition by a 182-94 overall margin.

“Shannon has been instrumental on the draw control,” Peery said. “She is so quick to react to the ball; it has given us a huge advantage on attack to get the ball from the start.”

Von Kaenel, midfielder Kyra Gabriele and defender Hannah Lubert are senior co-captains. Other seniors on this year’s team are attackers Emma Smith, Tia Pethel and Isabella Murano; defenders Lizzie Evans and Maria Helkowski; and first-year goalkeeper Abbey Rose.

“Abbey has stepped up as our backup goalkeeper and done extremely well,” Peery said.

Rounding out the QV lineup are freshman Alexa Westwood and juniors Sydney Hewitt, Kendall Foster and Taylor Cupelli at attack; freshman midfielder Lucy Roig; freshman Meredith Fallgren and sophomores Lily Pulkowski, Ruby Krotine and Grace Wiehe on defense; and sophomore goalkeeper Emily Reiner.

Reiner’s goals-against average was 5.70 with a .571 save percentage and one shutout.

Von Kaenel (42 goals, 20 assists) and Roig (56 goals, 4 assists) led the team offensively, complemented by Gabriele (36 goals, 8 assists), Smith (7 goals, 24 assists) and Westwood (10 goals, 12 assists).

“With a small team, all of our players have to play their part and each of the girls has made an impact in her own way,” Peery said. “Our nine seniors have done an amazing job of working together to lead the team. They all help provide leadership at different times and in their own ways. It has really been impressive to see each one step up this year while remaining a close group. They work extremely well together.”

Quaker Valley’s high-powered offense peppered in 182 goals and averaged 12.1 per game.

“Lucy Roig, Shannon Von Kaenel and Kyra Gabriele lead our scoring,” Peery said, “with assists from Emma Smith, Alexa Westwood, Tia Pethel, Sydney Hewitt, Kendall Foster, Taylor Cupelli and Izzie Murano. Both Kyra and Shannon scored their 100th career goal this season.

“Hannah, Maria, Lizzie, Meredith, Lily, Grace and Ruby are solid on defense and have done a great job of forcing low angle shots and many turnovers to keep scores low.”

Some winning streak highlights for the Quakers include:

• Von Kaenel accounted for 18 total goals against Trinity, Knoch, Ambridge and Franklin Regional. Roig and Gabriele netted four apiece against Trinity while freshman attacker Mia Floro added a hat trick.

“I have four freshman JV girls — Mia Floro, Lily Millet, Natalie Illiff and Makenna Kamnikar — that have gotten some varsity time,” Peery said.

• Gabriele scored five times against Knoch. Roig knocked in five goals and Pethel four against FR. Roig had a hat trick versus Knoch.

• And 10 players connected at least once against Ambridge, led by Von Kaenel with six goals, Roig with four and hat tricks by Gabriele, Smith and Foster.

• Gabriele, who opened the season with a five-goal explosion in a 15-2 win over Seton LaSalle, knocked in her 100th career goal April 25 in a 9-8 loss to Mars.

• Roig had seven goals and Von Kaenel five in the win against Moon; Von Kaenel was named player of the game.

• Von Kaenel netted two goals May 4, including the 100th of her career, to help her team to a 6-5 nonsection victory against North Allegheny. It also was senior recognition night for QV.

• Others chosen as players of the game this year include Fallgren “for her great defensive effort,” Westwood, Roig, Cupelli, Lubert, Helkowski, Millet and Reiner.

• Reiner made nine saves in the Knoch game and seven against both Chartiers Valley and Franklin Regional.

• Quaker Valley defeated Sewickley Academy, 15-10, on May 9 behind Pethel’s and Roig’s four goals apiece.

Reiner had 20 goalie saves, including her 100th of the season and 200th of her career.

Offensively, Von Kaenel and Gabriele chipped in with hat tricks while Foster rounded out the scoring with one goal.

Assists were credited to Pethel (2), Smith (2), Westwood, Von Kaenel and Gabriele.

She also plays hockey in the PIHL girls division. The QV sophomore skates at a forward position for the West team, which compiled a 10-1 record in the inaugural 2022 girls hockey season.

“We have a lot of new faces on Team West,” Reiner said. “Those new faces also bring new skills and personalities.”

The West team dropped a 3-2 decision to the East in its season opener last month.

“That was tough,” Reiner said. “It was our first game playing together; we just have to keep practicing and learn each other’s playing styles.”

Peery is in her third year as QV’s girls lacrosse coach. She also coached the middle school team for three years.

“My philosophy is that I want my players to develop a passion for the sport while also gaining critical life skills that will help them succeed in life,” Peery said. “I want to create a competitive environment where players feel included and want to be a part of the team.

“We emphasize ‘team first’ in all our decisions and believe the best teams are those that work together for a common goal.”

After three rounds of playoffs, the WPIAL girls lacrosse championships are scheduled for May 24-25, at RMU’s Joe Walton Stadium.

“We plan to use our nonsection games to prepare for the playoffs and continue to work out any areas of weakness,” Peery said. “My expectations feed off my players’ goals that they’ve set for themselves.

“They have the desire to compete and succeed in the playoffs, and I believe they have it in them to go far. They have a lot of heart and are extremely competitive, so I know they will do everything they can to succeed.”

Quaker Valley has won three WPIAL titles in girls lacrosse. The Quakers captured the 3A crown in 2015 and reeled in the first two titles in 2A in 2009 and 2010.

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