Shady Side Academy repeats as WPIAL girls lacrosse champs after battle with Mt. Lebanon

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021 | 10:53 PM


Two years ago, the Shady Side Academy girls lacrosse team staved off a weather-suspended game before winning the first WPIAL title in program history.

On Wednesday night at Robert Morris’ Joe Walton Stadium, the Bulldogs did it again.

This time around, the Bulldogs didn’t need an extra day to get the job done. They didn’t even need overtime. They danced with top-seeded Mt. Lebanon throughout the night, survived a six-goal performance from junior midfielder Reagan Murdoch and came from behind three times in order to capture their second straight WPIAL title, 9-8, over the Blue Devils.

“This is really just a testament to these kids,” Shady Side Academy coach Katy Phillips said. “I think what losing last year really did was took time away from our juniors and our sophomores of getting another year of leadership, playing time, figuring out how to mesh together. So we spent a long time this season figuring out who we were.”

The Bulldogs showcased their identity on the biggest stage Wednesday.

With 3 minutes, 6 seconds left in the second half, Murdoch, who had dominated on the offensive end for Mt. Lebanon all night, scored her sixth goal of the game to give the Blue Devils an 8-7 lead.

It was a decisive moment in the game, but it was also the last time Mt. Lebanon held the lead.

With around a minute and a half left, the Bulldogs were bringing the ball up the field and Phillips decided to call a timeout. It was a good thing she did.

Just after the horn sounded — Phillips’ own horn, actually — to signal a timeout, the Bulldogs had coughed up possession of the ball, but the timeout was granted and they retained possession.

“I think that’s one thing we’ve done well all season long is we’ve taken our possession timeouts when they are really important,” Phillips said. “We came in drew up a set, and I literally said, ‘We’re going to win this game in a minute and 20 seconds. We’re not going to overtime.’”

Phillips spoke it into existence.

With 1:01 left on the clock, Cat Johnson received the ball on the left side of the net, cut across the middle and fired a shot into the back of the net to tie the game 8-8.

Then, just over 30 seconds later, junior midfielder Jenny Woodlings scored her fourth goal of the game to give the Bulldogs the go-ahead goal and their second straight WPIAL title.

“This is a huge win, but I think overall, what I hope for Western Pennsylvania lacrosse is how do we take teams that are competing at this level and take us to a state championship,” Phillips said. “Both of us are going on, including Sewickley Academy, and I think what we need to do as an area is how do we start to compete at a higher level. I love this and I want to win a WPIAL every year, but I really want us to win a state championship too.”

Mt. Lebanon got the scoring started Wednesday when Megan Cain cashed in three minutes in. Avery Tandon tallied a goal shortly after to make it 2-0.

After Woodlings scored her first goal of the game, Murdoch tallied hers to go up 3-1. But the Bulldogs scored three straight to finish off the half and take a 4-3 lead into halftime.

Murdoch scored all five goals for the Blue Devils in the second half, and Shady Side’s CeCe Messner added two for a total of three as the teams traded the lead in the second half.

“I think everyone played their hearts out tonight,” Mt. Lebanon coach Brian Kattan said. “It’s just unfortunate we ran into Shady Side. We’ll take a couple of days off to just relax and let them think about what a great season it was, but this game doesn’t define our season. We’ll come back and be ready for the state playoffs.”

Along with Johnson, Woodlings, and Messner, Dylan Green also added a goal for the Bulldogs when she tied the game 5-5 in the second half.

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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