Shady Side Academy girls lacrosse ready to rewrite story

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Saturday, April 3, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Two years ago, the Shady Side Academy girls lacrosse program won its first WPIAL championship in historical fashion.

In a game that stretched over 24 hours because of weather conditions, Shady Side Academy’s Molly Walsh scored with three minutes left in the second overtime of their WPIAL championship match with Upper St. Clair to deliver a 12-11 victory.

It was a monumental moment for the Bulldogs, and after a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic, they are looking to rewrite their story.

“It’s a weird season, so you’re recreating a team without two groups of seniors rather than one and quite honestly almost two classes of freshmen, with your real freshmen and then your sophomores that didn’t get the opportunity to play,” Shady Side Academy coach Katy Phillips said. “So, we’ve really spent a lot of time trying to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the kids in the program and just really rewriting who we are.”

While they only return one defender from that WPIAL championship team two years ago, the Bulldogs bring back a few players who had a big impact in bringing home the WPIAL trophy.

Walsh, who scored four goals in the WPIAL championship, is returning as a junior along with Dylan Green, who scored a hat trick during their historic victory.

Gianna Lamanna is also back in the cage and will provide the Bulldogs some senior leadership as they try to defend their WPIAL title.

Phillips also believes one of the biggest contributors this season will be junior CeCe Messner.

“She’s really a complete midfielder, and she does it all,” Phillips said. “She works really hard on both ends of the field, and you’re not going to see a big stat line from her but she just does everything right. So I think she’s probably one that was a significant contributor in the WPIAL championship and our season overall that a lot of people didn’t notice.”

Along with a few crucial returners, the Bulldogs also have a few underclassmen who could play significant roles this season.

Sophomore Morgan Golden will see time up front, and sophomore Neely Nicholson will see time on defense. Freshmen Polly Johnson and Sydney Birchard will play a role in the midfield, as well.

But one of the most important things for the Bulldogs is their ability to bring in athletes from other sports and assimilate them into their program.

“We always have a few upperclassmen that come into the mix that have never played lacrosse before,” Phillips said. “We have been successful bringing those athletes into the program and having them support our goals. During our WPIAL championship year, Hannah Price was a Division I ice hockey recruit to RPI, and she was a starting crease player for us after never playing before. You’ll see a lot of those players for us, which is really exciting.”

After taking over a year off from the sport, there are bound to be challenges. Phillips has found herself teaching both the basics of the game, along with the team’s strategic approach.

She also has tried to build a sense of confidence in her team that it has time to meld.

“I feel like I have to teach kids how to catch and throw while also teaching what defense we’re running, so I feel like that’s the biggest hurdle right now,” Phillips said. “So, a lot of what our communication is right now is this is a journey, and in order to win a championship we need to be perfect at the end and not at the beginning.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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