Senior Spotlight: Peters Township All-American relished impromptu senior ceremony

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Monday, May 11, 2020 | 5:35 PM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Most high school spring sports athletes were deprived of a senior recognition night because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Peters Township girls lacrosse team, however, did find a way to honor the soon-to-be graduates. Kind of.

After what turned out to be the final practice of the season — which PIAA officials canceled because of concerns surrounding covid-19 — the six senior Indians (Adriana Cocco, MacKenzie Lehman, Mia Pugliano, Rachel Raber, Veronica Schratz and Maria Vilsack) were showered with praise from their underclassmen teammates.

During the post-practice stretch cool down, each of the underclass girls on the team stood up and said something nice about the seniors and their time together as teammates.

It was a gesture not lost on Lehman, an All-WPIAL and All-American selection who will continue her lacrosse career at Liberty.

“It started to hit me then that there was a chance we wouldn’t play again,” said Lehman, an attack/midfielder who had just returned from nearly seven months of recovery following ACL surgery.

“It was heartbreaking. I was upset I wasn’t going to be able to get out there and have our senior season and play with all those girls one last time.”

Lehman suffered a knee injury last July at a tournament with her club team. She then had surgery in August, which kept her on the bench during basketball season as Peters Township attempted to defend its WPIAL and PIAA Class 6A titles.

Now fully healed, Lehman is working her way back into lacrosse shape while being quarantined at home before heading off to Liberty in the fall.

How have you been keeping busy during the coronavirus pandemic?

I’ve definitely been able to spend more time with my family, not having to be at practice. I’ve been trying to keep in shape and balance with school and still being social with my friends.

Have you been doing any lacrosse activities?

I’ve been playing wall ball, and I have a lacrosse net in my backyard that I’ve been throwing around. I’ve been keeping active with my stick.

If there was a lacrosse season, what were you hoping to accomplish personally and as a team?

I was cleared for non-contact the week after the season started. I only got to do a few practices (after being cleared for contact). I was hoping to get back to the level of play I know I can play at. As a team, we have a new coach and were all really excited. We had a lot of team bonding. We could tell this year was going to be a lot of fun. We wanted to make a statement in our section.

What was the recovery like?

It was different because I’ve always been involved with some sport or physical activity. Having that down time, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It (stunk) watching from the sidelines when I’m used to being in there playing. It was nice to take on another role and get another perspective.

Why did you decide on Liberty?

I made a connection with the coach through my club organization. I loved her and the whole coaching staff. There’s two girls from Peters who are going to be seniors next year, and I became really close with them. They showed me a lot and told me a lot about the school. I loved the atmosphere of the team and the way they pick each other up and their team camaraderie. I loved the campus and they had my major (nursing). It just seemed like the best fit for me.

What made you want to study nursing?

I was leaning toward something in the medical field, and then after my surgery, it showed me what the options were. I just liked it and could picture myself there.

What do you like most about lacrosse?

I love the competitive nature of the sport. And working as a team. It just feels natural for me.

What was it like to win a WPIAL and PIAA basketball title last year?

It was unreal. It was definitely a memory that I’ll never forget. Those girls became my best friends. They still are. Looking back, it’s still hard to believe that we didn’t lose. It was always fun. There wasn’t a time when we didn’t have fun.

What are some of the other activities you were involved with at Peters Township?

I was a member of National Honor Society this year. My main focus was sports.

What was your reaction like when you found out you wouldn’t be returning to school this spring?

I was in shock. I definitely cried.

What have you missed most during this quarantine period?

Just life being normal. Being able to go out and do things. I’m definitely missing school, and playing and seeing my friends all the time.

What has been your favorite show to binge watch?

I’ve watched “All-American,” “Outer Banks,” “Love is Blind.” I re-watched them all too.

What advise would you give to your younger self?

Just to not take things for granted. Enjoy the moment. Live in the moment because, looking back, it’s not going to last forever. Enjoy it while it lasts. You never know when it’s going to be over.

What three celebrities would you like to have dinner with?

(Lacrosse player) Taylor Cummings, Sidney Crosby and Zac Efron.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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