With seniors leading way, Latrobe gaining respect in WPIAL field hockey circles

Monday, October 10, 2022 | 11:06 AM

Not long ago, elite WPIAL field hockey teams almost certainly would mark down a victory against Latrobe before the games actually were played.

Now, not so much.

The Wildcats lately have been playing like anything but a pushover. They reached the WPIAL Class 2A championship game in back-to-back seasons in 2017-18, losing respectably each time to perennial power Penn-Trafford, which has won six consecutive WPIAL 2A titles.

More recently, they’ve not gotten past the semifinals the past three seasons.

But there have been high hopes this season for a breakthrough.

“Things are coming together. It shows the hard work and what we’re doing is paying off,” said Jeff Giordan, who is just the program’s second coach following Jym Walters, who left after the 2011 season to take over as women’s lacrosse coach at Saint Vincent College.

Giordan is a Latrobe graduate who wrestled for the Wildcats before enrolling at Saint Vincent and accepting an offer to play goalkeeper for the Bearcats men’s lacrosse team. At 51, he has continued to play club team lacrosse in Allegheny and Washington counties while maintaining his duties as Latrobe field hockey mentor.

“I don’t have as big an impact as most people would think I have,” he said. “I almost always find time to ask questions of these girls. ‘How can we change things? What’s working and what’s not?’”

He’s mostly loved the responses.

“We frequently talk about how we can get better tomorrow,” Giordan said. “We want to give ourselves a chance to think about it before we get back out on the field.”

With Giordan at the controls, Latrobe is earning respect around the WPIAL — this season, especially, with a sizeable senior class leading the way.

“I’m happy with the competitive nature we have,” Giordan said.

Latrobe (3-3-2, 2-2 Section 2A) returned three WPIAL all-stars from last season in seniors Taylor Desko, a defender; Lauren Sapp, a forward; and Josie Straigis, a midfielder. Sapp and Straigis are second on the team with four goals apiece heading into a scheduled Wednesday section match at home against Penn-Trafford.

It is a rematch of the Wildcats’ 4-2 loss to the Warriors on Sept. 12.

Ahead of the others, senior forward Hope Cerney leads Latrobe’s scoring with six goals.

“We have seen things come together and we understand what is working for us,” Giordano said. “We’ve got a good group that communicates well and has established a level of trust for one another. I don’t think it came together before like it has this year. I know that when these seniors are gone, there’s going to be a huge hole to fill next year. But we’re hopeful the younger players are able to emulate what we’ve been doing here all along and keep us on the upswing.”

With more than half the team’s players (18 of 33) in their final high school season, Latrobe is 1-1 against Class 3A opponents, beating Peters Township, 1-0, and losing to Pine-Richland, 3-0.

The Wildcats’s two ties — both 3-3 deadlocks — have come against Acquinas Academy and unbeaten Ellis School, the top teams in Class A.

“These girls seem to love playing in meaningful and exciting games,” Giordan said. “We legitimately have energy on all parts of the field.”

Senior forward Megan Brackney has contributed three goals for Latrobe, while her sister, sophomore goaltender McKenna Brackney, is sporting a 1.90 goals-against average.

“Our immediate goal is to beat Penn-Trafford,” Giordan said. “We haven’t beaten them for as long as I’ve been coaching. We won’t worry about anything else until after that game.”

Two more section games are scheduled in the coming days against Oakland Catholic and Fox Chapel. In the season’s first meetings, Latrobe defeated Oakland Catholic, 3-1, and was beaten by Fox Chapel, 1-0.

“We’re halfway through the season,” Giordan said. “It’s October. Now, we start our journey to finish the season at a higher level than the first half. We have to reevaluate ourselves and try to push to the end of October.”


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