Strong senior class leads North Hills girls lacrosse to solid start

Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 10:17 PM

The North Hills girls lacrosse team is off to a scorching hot start, racking up an undefeated 6-0 record as they approach the halfway point of the season.

While the Indians’ successful early-season stretch may be a surprise to some of their Section 2-AAA opponents, coach Jim Cassandro is hardly shocked. Despite finishing last year with a .500 record, Cassandro said he mostly chalks that mark up to a bad rash of injuries that crashed their 2018 campaign.

This year, the team’s overall health remains intact and, as a result, so does their unblemished record.

“When the schedule comes out, every coach takes a look at it and analyzes it. That’s sort of what I did; I went down the line and thought that we could be sitting here at 6-0 right now if we played well,” he said.

“And that’s been the case. Last year, we were having a great season, and we suffered injuries to key players. As long as we were to stay healthy, I knew we could be this good.”

Another significant reason for North Hills’ sharp play this season has been its quartet of seniors, each one of them considered to be four-year starters at the varsity level.

Seniors Gianna DiPaolo and Julea Jamison, playing offensive winger and center, respectively, have helped key the team’s scoring attack. The duo is tied for the team lead in goals with 21.

Meanwhile, Maura Ruprecht is minding net for the fourth straight season while fellow fourth-year starter Leah Rode mans the defensive winger spot in front of her. All in all, the group has been invaluable to their team, according to their coach.

“They all stepped in right away as freshmen early on, and their maturity and how they see the game now, it’s made a big difference for us,” Cassandro said.

“I told them on Day 1 of this year that this is the season I’ve been waiting for. These girls have been fantastic. They weren’t just on the team as freshmen; they dominated as freshmen. Since then, they’ve just gotten better and better each year.”

The four aforementioned seniors haven’t had to do it alone, however, as Cassandro has high praise for the efforts put in by Rode’s fellow defenders — Mikayla Simms, Megan Wurster, Ana Baskinger and Grace Lawrence.

On offense, the Indians are also enjoying solid contributions from Bella Kunz, Mollie Stanton, Ange Adamski, Iza DeReno and Eli Fleischer.

From the jump of its season, North Hills has been in a groove. Maintaining that groove will be the challenge. It’s not complicated, though, according to Cassandro, who said there is no secret in North Hills’ plan to maintain its strong play.

“We just need to continue to focus and play hard. We have a very good team, we step up against any opponent that we play,” the Indians’ coach said.

“The main thing is just staying healthy. If we’re able to do that, I’m confident that we’ll get a little better with each game we play. I think it’s all starting to fall into place for us.”


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