The WPIAL Division II girls lacrosse championship game was shaping up to be a rout this past Thursday as top-seeded Shaler Area appeared to have the game well in hand with a 12-5 lead against Chartiers Valley with 2:23 left in the first half at North Hills' Martorelli Stadium.
But Shaler coach Jennifer Perestock knew that a championship is determined by the effort displayed for a full game, and not just one half.
She didn't like the fact that Chartiers Valley scored nine consecutive goals over the course of the last 30 seconds of the first half and the first 11 minutes of the second to take a two-goal lead at 14-12. But she also wasn't surprised that her Titans would stem the tide and hold the Colts scoreless for the final 12:41 while scoring three unanswered goals to earn a 15-14 victory and the first WPIAL Division II girls lacrosse championship in school history. The victory concluded the Titans' season at 18-1.
"It was all about the camaraderie of this team and teamwork," Perestock said. "That's how I've been from Day One."
It doesn't hurt to have a talented player such as sophomore midfielder Shannon Lynch making things happen offensively.
Lynch sparked the Titans' initial surge by scoring five goals as the Titans surged to their only seven-goal lead in a matched affected by two weather delays because of thunderstorms with lightning.
During that early run when the Titans held a 5-1 lead, the first lightning delay took place. Lynch thought the timing was unfortunate for her team.
"When we were in the locker room the first time and were up 5-1, we thought we had [the game won] and we might have had too much confidence," she said. "[During the second delay], our heads were down, but we came back out and won because of our teamwork. It was just incredible."
Lynch's performance didn't surprise Perestock.
"She's been fabulous the whole season," the coach said.
Lynch's sixth goal cut the Chartiers Valley lead to 14-13 with 11:10 left in the game. Senior midfielder Kristel Chatellier then scored the tying and winning goals within a 34-second span, converting two nice passes from Lynch into goals.
"I was actually glad we got the lightning break because I needed to spark things up with [the team]," she said. "They needed that pump-up to get back into the game, work together as a team and figure out a way to fix what was going on. It worked out to our benefit, and we had time to talk, and they put things together."
What was going on was a Herculean effort by Chartiers Valley freshman attack Maria Stamerra, who finished the game with eight goals.
When the Colts were on their 9-0 run, Stamerra was winning draws, running down the field and scoring five goals.
The performance took a toll on her team, Lynch said.
"The emotion was crazy," she said. "We were getting down on each other, but coach kept us going. She asked us 'Do you want to lose to one player?' Our heads were down, but we came back and got [the win] as a team."
Perestock said a possible move to Division I next season is still in the planning phase.
"That's to be decided by what's going on with our youth program," she said.
The here and now, though, is that this is a team that is a force for whatever their length of stay is in Division II.
Only one team beat the Titans this year, and that was North Allegheny, a team that just missed qualifying for the Division I tournament. North Allegheny edged the Titans, 11-7.
In every other game, however, the Titans dominated.
Among their 18 wins were 10 victories by double-digit margins. Besides the one loss and the one-goal victory in the championship game against Chartiers Valley, the Titans' closest games were victories by margins of 10-6 and 12-5 against Hampton, and a 20-13 victory against Division I member Franklin Regional.
The championship game was still in doubt in the waning seconds, and Lynch was running around the field with the ball, trying to avoid Chartiers Valley players.
"We were up by one goal, and I knew that if we held it, we'd win," she said. "I had confidence in myself, and when I saw no one was on the far end of the field, that's where I went to run the clock out."
Five starters are graduating, but with seven coming back, the Titans' prospects appear to be bright in both the short- and long-term.