Sewickley Academy rising seniors Libby Eannarino, Ashley Close look forward to promising ’24 lacrosse season

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Saturday, July 8, 2023 | 8:01 AM


They are key midfielders on the Sewickley Academy girls lacrosse team.

Both are 17; both stand 5-foot-8.

In 2024, Libby Eannarino and Ashley Close will share another role as senior co-captains.

“First and foremost,” Eannarino said, “I want to build upon the tradition of female success in athletics that’s such an integral part of Sewickley Academy. I want to serve as a role model for the other girls on the team, and I want to lead by example.

“Both Ashley and I want to create a positive environment and build each other up, pushing each other in our practices so that we can be ready come the spring season. We also want to expand upon all that we accomplished this past season so as to make a deeper run in WPIALs.”

Eannarino, after transferring to Sewickley Academy last fall, netted 65 goals, was credited with 20-plus assists and won more than 65 draw controls. She scored her 100th career goal April 13 against Peters Township.

“This year was great,” Eannarino said. “We started the year with many new faces and coaches, including me, but right off the bat we had a cohesive group. Like any team, we faced some adversity, ranging from inclement weather to sudden injuries to few subs. But we had a tight-knit group, and we worked to overcome those problems. We made a run in the playoffs, and we’d like to make it even further next year.

“And I’m so proud scoring my 100th goal while wearing a Sewickley jersey and representing the academy.”

The three-sport standout transferred from Upper St. Clair. She participated in soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter.

“Libby is extremely athletic, excelling in soccer, basketball and lacrosse,” said Ali Grenert, SA’s first-year girls lacrosse coach. “She has a very high lacrosse IQ. She, as though instinctively, knows where the ball is going to be.

“Libby sees the entire field and, as such, is very patient and mindful in her play. She is like a chess player who sees two or three moves ahead. Her shots on goal are so accurate, I describe them as ‘passes to the back of the net.’ She is also very funny and kind. Her smile is contagious.”

Close is better known — make that well known — for her achievements on the tennis court.

She competes as the No. 1 singles player for the Sewickley girls tennis team in the fall, and ended last season in Hershey as the Class 2A state runner-up.

Close also finished second in the WPIAL after winning the title in 2021.

“I’m very excited for our next season with the tennis team,” Close said. “But I love the team aspect of lacrosse. Having played tennis my whole life, I have grown to love having teammates on the field with you to cheer you up when you are down or to celebrate with you.”

The dual-sport athlete ended the 2023 lacrosse season with 26 goals, 14 assists and 25-plus draw controls.

“Ashley is also extremely athletic, excelling in girls tennis,” Grenert said. “When I think of Ashley on the lacrosse field, I think determination and hustle. She never gives up. She is a fierce defender and a dangerous attack player.

“In our playoff game against North Hills, Ashley netted four goals. She was the second-highest goal scorer on the team this season after Libby.”

Close looks forward to serving as co-captain alongside Eannarino in 2024.

“I’m so excited to lead the team with Libby, one of my closest friends,” she said. “I feel we will work well together and hopefully are able to bring the best out of our team.”

The Panthers clinched a playoff berth by compiling a 4-4 record in their section.

“As a new coach, I did not have any expectations going into the season, or rather, I did not know what to expect,” Grenert said. “My only goal was to make us, as individuals, into a team. We definitely accomplished that.”

Expectations are high for the Panthers in 2024, especially with the likes of Eannarino and Close leading the way.

“I’m very excited for next season,” Grenert said. “We graduated six seniors but expect to gain eight ninth graders, including Libby’s younger sister Emma, and Rinnie Jardini’s younger sister, Grace. (Rinnie Jardini is a 2023 SA graduate).

“Cheryl Ann Lassen, my former high school lacrosse coach (at SA), coaches our middle school team. She is an excellent coach and mentor and extremely knowledgeable about girls lacrosse. That is to say, the rising ninth graders, I suspect, will make a huge impact on the team, and not just because they will almost outnumber our returning players.”

Eannarino wants to build on the offensive success she displayed in 2023, which will help the Panthers grow even more as a team.

“Next year, we want to build upon our successes and make a deeper run in WPIAL playoffs,” she said. “Not only will we be returning a core group of players, we’ll also see several new additions, especially in the freshman class. We’re hoping to put in some work in the offseason so we can hit the ground running in the spring.

“These four years go by fast. We want to make the most of every opportunity we have for the team, for the community supporting us, and for the school itself.”

Eannarino eagerly awaits playing a second year with the Panthers.

“Sewickley Academy has a long tradition of success in female athletics, and I’d like to add on to that rich lacrosse history in whatever way I can,” she said. “In fact, two of our coaches, coach Grenert and coach (Holly) Seifert, played lacrosse at Sewickley when they were in high school, and they’ve come back to further the school’s lacrosse legacy.

“That’s something pretty special about Sewickley. Many of its alumni return and give back to the community. Programs like the girls lacrosse team benefit greatly from the support of these alumni.”

Eannarino and Close capped their 2023 lacrosse season by being named to the all-section team.

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