Strong start has Fox Chapel girls lacrosse in WPIAL playoff contention

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Saturday, May 1, 2021 | 11:01 AM


An experienced Fox Chapel girls lacrosse team hoped to do big things last year, but the PIAA’s concerns over the growing covid pandemic cut short plans for the Foxes to defend their 2019 section title, win their fourth section title overall and challenge for a WPIAL championship in Class AAA.

“We had a really talented group of seniors last year who were strong leaders and loved to be on the field,” Fox Chapel coach Kellee Cribby said. “It was tough to lose them and not see them get to finish out their season and close their careers the way they wanted.”

In Zoom meetings during quarantine, in both club and recreational play, and through some offseason workouts, Cribby was able to take notice of the foundation for this year’s team.

This spring, Cribby said, was a fresh start and a valued opportunity for the mix of returning and new talent. The team has responded with strong play from senior goalie Hannah Humes and a stingy set of defenders through to the midfielders and to the attack which has averaged 11.4 goals in nine games through a tough 9-3 nonsection setback to Mt. Lebanon on April 26.

“There is a big element of gratitude that you don’t normally see at this age because they have so many years ahead of them, but this group understands how easy it is to lose a season, and they are so glad to be with each other,” said Cribby, who helped guide the Foxes to a 7-2 overall record and 6-0 Section 2 mark heading into a section matchup Thursday against Shady Side Academy.

“They really work hard every day because of it. The captains really bring a great work ethic and energy, and it rubs off on the rest of the team. I’ve set that bar high, and the girls have always risen to the occasion.”

The Foxes, who averaged 13.5 goals over their first six section games, hoped to maintain control of first place in the section against Shady Side Academy. That game, along with section road matchups at North Allegheny on Friday and at Pine-Richland on Monday, was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

Fox Chapel will close section play Thursday at home against Sewickley Academy, and Upper St. Clair comes to Burk Stadium on May 11 for the regular-season finale.

The top six teams in both Class AAA sections qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, set to start May 17.

“We’ve really put ourselves in good position to grab one of those playoff spots from the section,” said Cribby, who said the final series of games, starting with Shady Side Academy, will both test and galvanize the group heading into a likely postseason appearance.

Through nine games, freshman attacker Sydney Schutzman led the team with 32 goals. She tallied a season-best seven in a 12-4 victory over North Hills which got the Foxes in the win column after a season-opening loss to Peters Township 11 days earlier.

That triumph sparked the team to seven wins in a row.

“At the start of the season, we worked extra hard at working to come together as a team,” Schutzman said. “The older and more experienced girls did a great job in helping me and some of the younger players get more comfortable in playing varsity. Our attack revolves around the entire attack group, not just one player. We love to pass the ball and get everyone involved. That makes it tougher for other teams to defend us.”

Senior Lily Zaltman (18 goals), sophomore Lindsay Scheffler (17 goals, 21 assists) and junior Sydney Kennedy (14 goals) also have found themselves at the top of the list in scoring this season.

Zaltman and Kennedy are captains this year with Humes, senior defender Eliza Auffenberg and junior defender Mira Tramontina.

The Fox Chapel defense allowed an average of six goals a game through the first nine games.

“The talent this year is really spread out throughout the lineup,” Kennedy said.

“Everyone plays a big role on the team. We have many girls who can score goals, and the defense has been the backbone of this team. So many underclassmen, especially freshman, have stepped up. We’ve bonded strongly this year with high goals and expectations.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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