Young players bolster lineup for Latrobe girls lacrosse

Thursday, April 4, 2019 | 8:33 PM

It was a long and quiet bus ride back to campus from Sewickley Academy last May for the Latrobe girls lacrosse team. The Panthers handed Wildcats a 23-3 shellacking in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs. Egos were bruised, and the Wildcats were humbled.

“I think that loss really, really inspired us to up our game this year,” senior defender and captain Landrey Quinn said. “That was a tough one for me and tough one to be a part of.

“It was my first playoff game that I was a part of (as a varsity player). It was definitely a motivator for the team.”

Once Latrobe (2-2) arrived home, five seniors, including leading scorers Maddie Stas and Rave Dupilka, got off the team bus for the last time. The Wildcats were about to enter a period of transition. The biggest question during this past offseason was where were the goals going to come from?

“It’s a slow process,” said Latrobe coach Kaytie Russo, who is in her ninth season. “(Scoring) is definitely our biggest challenge this year.”

Going all the way back to her days as a Wildcat, it’s been Russo’s “dream” of starting a middle-school program. The 2007 Latrobe grad finally made that dream a reality and started a middle-school team last year; the impact is already being felt at the varsity level.

“We have pretty good group of incoming freshman,” Russo said. “We have four freshman on our varsity team and three of them are starters. It’s the first season where we haven’t had to train 20 players in lacrosse.”

Russo made a bold move and filled three of the five open positions with freshmen. Midfielders Abby Shearer and Carolina Walters and attacker Alexa Jogun are the freshmen trio getting a crash course in varsity lacrosse.

“When you have freshmen that are competitive enough and can take that varsity start away, it pushes the kids which I think is good,” Russo said.

Walters and Shearer, both midfielders, are Nos. 1 and 2 on the team in assists, with five and four, respectively.

Walters is the daughter of Saint Vincent women’s lacrosse coach Jym Walters and grew up around the sport.

“I think having the underclassmen has definitely been a push for us upperclassmen to up our games,” Quinn said. “We can teach them what we know, and get a little bit of energy from them because they are young.”

The strength of the Wildcats will be their back line. While the Wildcats get organized up front and develop scoring threats, the defense is going to have to keep them in games.

“Defensively, we’re more physical than we’ve ever been and more physical in practice, too,” Russo said.

Anchoring the back line in front of junior goalie Emily Hoffman are Quinn, senior Keegan Clark and juniors Ella Hill and Taylor Hochard. Hill could see time at midfielder.

“I think defense is definitely our strongest component this season, so far,” Russo said.

At midfield, the Wildcats are young but have a ton of potential. The line is led by junior caption Ainsley Novotny, who has 10 goals.

“We are very fortunate this year,” Russo said. “We have an abundance of midfielders this year, and that makes us very competitive in the midfield area. It’s comforting knowing that we have players than can play any position. We’re a very versatile team.”

Latrobe’s attack is also versatile and by the end of the season could turn into a strength depending on how fast the underclassmen develop.

Senior captain Eve O’Sullivan, along with classmate Lauren Willner, junior Carlin Johns, Jogun and Walters all make for a formidable attack. Willner ranks second on the team in goals with six.

“I think that the sky is the limit for them and there’s a lot of potential for this team,” Russo said. “As the season progresses, they will continue to get better as individuals. We’re just looking one day at a time.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.


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