South Fayette girls lacrosse shakes ‘new team’ label

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Sunday, June 6, 2021 | 11:01 AM


For five years, the South Fayette girls lacrosse team has been trying to break on through to the other side of consistently playing competitive matches.

Mission accomplished.

“I feel like this is finally the season that proved us as a competitor as opposed to being the new team,” coach Connie Iorio said. “We had been living under that stigma since 2016. It takes time to develop a program, and I feel like we’ve finally overcome that not only to ourselves, but to section and our fans.”

The Lions began the season winning three of their first four, then later in April, enjoyed a season-high three-game winning streak.

“We have been competitive against most of the teams we opened with, and they were fairly easier for us,” Iorio said. “We then had two of the usual toughest in our section where we have been blown out before, but that didn’t happen this time. We lost in overtime to a team that we lost to by 12 points the previous season. Even QV, although we lost 12-7, we were so much better than in the past against them. It boosted our confidence against the next several teams, and we performed much better.”

South Fayette finished with a 4-5 section record and in sixth place in the 10-team Section 2-AA. The top two teams in the section were Blackhawk and Mars, who ended up facing each other in the WPIAL Class AA championship match.

“Section 2 has four teams that are always at the top, with Blackhawk and Mars consistently up there,” Iorio said. “I do believe it is a much tougher section than Section 1 overall, but teams change year to year and it could change any time.”

Iorio struggled when it came to naming some of the Lions’ top players from this spring.

“This was a hard season to pick just a couple,” she said. “The varsity team was comprised of eight senior starting players and with a handful of strong younger players, they did so much together that it’s hard to distinguish just a couple standouts.”

Iorio did not struggle to come up with some of the highlights from the season.

“I am so excited to say there were so many this year,” she said. “First, just being able to play after last year was a highlight. We were just so happy to be back on the field at all. Obviously, making playoffs for the first time was a huge milestone for our program, and I was glad these seniors had the chance to be part of that and set the bar for the future as they deserved that.

“Our best games were against Mars, Seton and Blackhawk, and we were elated to feel like we were in the game whereas we haven’t been in the past. Overall, just seeing the end product of all the hard work in practices was the major highlight of the season.”

The South Fayette season ended in the postseason for the first time in program history, a 13-9 loss to No. 6 seed Aquinas Academy.

“These girls were pushed hard this season by the staff because we knew they had it in them to do better, and despite some tough losses, I could not be any more proud of them,” Iorio said. “We are graduating 12 players in total, of which six have been here since the inception of the lacrosse program as middle school players, so I have known them for quite some time and watched them grow not only into solid players, but into kind, strong young women, and it is a bittersweet parting.

“I have a hard time envisioning a team without Caroline Fleming, Amelia Lazzini, Morgan Young, Madison Spruit, Sadie Jacobs and Heidi Beck, but they, along with the rest of the seniors, left behind a legacy that is hopefully a new beginning for the program.”

Despite all the senior losses, Iorio is excited about the direction of the program as she looks ahead to the spring of 2022.

“As with most teams in AA, year to year could be complete team changes as the depth isn’t there like it is for many AAA teams,” she said. “We graduate half of our team, which is going to be tough, but we are gaining that many in freshmen from our youth program where many of them have several years in.

“It will be a young team all over again, but it will be the first time where the majority of new players have that much experience coming in, which should make it easier to coach in general. We are really looking forward to it and glad to move away from the new team mentality.”

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