Team effort helps Latrobe girls lacrosse advance to WPIAL playoffs

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | 1:01 AM


While the sport of lacrosse continues to grow in popularity in Westmoreland County, increased stability in some high school programs appears on the rise.

Count the Latrobe girls team among them.

“What can we do to move lacrosse in the right direction in Westmoreland County and be competitive?” Latrobe coach Kaytie Costic said. “We’ve run clinics and winter leagues, and we’ve geared it towards everyone’s player development. It’s not just about Latrobe.”

Costic and assistant Jeff Giordan have combined for 12 seasons to help build Latrobe into a respectable WPIAL opponent in Class 3A against some traditional contenders from Allegheny and Washington counties such as Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan and Peters Township.

The Wildcats, who have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons (not counting the canceled 2020 covid-19 season), were scheduled to take on top-ranked Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, a Section 1 road match sandwiched between two other scheduled home encounters to wrap up the regular season: Monday against Allderdice and Wednesday vs. Peters Township, both in Section 1.

Latrobe (6-6) saw a three-game winning streak stopped with a 12-8 loss at Plum on Friday.

“We’re kind of in a unique position this year,” Costic said. “Who stands out? Really, it’s a team effort. It’s not one or two players that’s doing the work. It’s five, six, seven players. It’s our midfielders getting draws off the start. It’s really just kind of the team in general.”

Heading into the final regular-season week, Latrobe held a 101-77 edge in draws, a fact that didn’t escape senior attack Sarah Matsko.

“Everybody wants to score,” she said, “but we’ve talked a lot about having everyone contribute. We need girls to excel in other areas … feed the assist, be a great defender, find your spot on the field.”

Costic, for one, said she’s listening. Matsko, indeed, has been encouraged.

A team tri-captain, Matsko isn’t among Latrobe’s top goal-getters. She’s not the flashiest player around, either. But, with her high school lacrosse career winding down, she just might have developed into Latrobe’s team MVP this season.

“Sarah is just a strong, strong player. She’s a good leader on and off the field,” Costic said.

But her ability to take charge took years to cultivate and began one promising day as an eighth grader.

“I didn’t even know what lacrosse was. I’d never heard of it,” Matsko said. “My friends and I had heard they were starting a junior high team, and we were curious so we went to the meeting.”

They listened and tried to learn about the sport. Most, Matsko included, decided to give it a try.

“At first, it wasn’t very enjoyable. It definitely was a wakeup call,” she said, chuckling. “I remember going to get my equipment. I saw a stick, and I figured I had to catch the ball with the net that was on it. That’s about all I can remember about that because when we started to practice, it was snowing, and we weren’t dressed very warm. The field was covered.

“We found out there was a lot more to it.”

Following high school, Matsko said she plans to attend Pitt-Johnstown to study engineering while considering any opportunity to play lacrosse at the club-team level.

She has had fun playing the sport in high school, she said, while Costic, her coach, wishes she’d had 100 Sarah Matskos at her disposal, regardless of what the statistics show.

Indeed, Costic has been thankful for Matsko’s positive effect on her teammates, many of whom have scored more goals in their careers.

Matsko’s partnering tri-captains — Carolina Walters and Abby Kostic, a pair of senior midfielders — were among the leaders in goals. Walters topped the list with 26, and Kostic (no relation to the coach) was third with 15.

In between, junior attack Taylor Desko had rung up the second most with 18, and junior midfielder Ryley Quinn was fourth with 12.

“Taylor is quite a playmaker,” Costic said. “She tries to make things happen on the offensive side. She keeps things going.”

Attacks senior Madison Viazanko, junior Megan Brackney and sophomore Bridget McHugh add depth at the scoring spots for Latrobe, and the back line includes seniors Megan Henderson and Kloe Templeton and juniors Maria Lazzaro and Emily Pry, as well as senior goalkeeper Kaylee Duseteina.

“We started our middle school (junior high) program in 2018, just before covid,” Costic said. “That first group is now our seniors and juniors. They’ve proven every school needs middle school programs. Their level of play, despite the covid setbacks, shows me there’s potential down the road and an opportunity for kids to step up, perform well and possibly move on to the next level.”

Matsko, of course, plans to focus on her engineering prospects with a mild interest in staying sharp on the lacrosse field as a possible club-team member after her somewhat surprising and fulfilling rise to team captain at Latrobe.

“I hope what I’m contributing will help advance the others as far as possible and give the team a chance to succeed even more in the future,” she said.

“It starts with good practice habits and a commitment to stay with it. If I wouldn’t have gone to that meeting in eighth grade and decided to play lacrosse, I’m not sure I’d have had as good an experience in high school.”

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