North Xtra: North Allegheny ends its tailspin in lacrosse

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North Allegheny girls lacrosse coach Shannon Hadaway would like to win every game, but a 12-7 loss to non-section rival Mt. Lebanon on April 13 didn't have her or her team panicking.

"Mt. Lebanon is a good team, but we were missing our goalie and two of our top players because they were on an orchestra trip," she said. "We were solid without our strong players, but we just couldn't put it together."

The loss came on the heels of a 4-4 Division I Section 2 tie with Quaker Valley. Following the loss to Lebo, however, the Tigers went into a four-game tailspin, losing consecutive matches to Seneca Valley, 13-7, Sewickley Academy, 15-13, and Pine-Richland, 19-7 before finally righting their ship by defeating Fox Chapel, 16-9, Tuesday.

The victory against the Foxes improved the Tigers overall record to 4-4-1.

After rising as high as No. 2 in the laxpower.com rankings for girls high school teams in Western Pennsylvania, the Tigers dropped to as low as No. 13. But after the victory against Fox Chapel, they are back up to No. 7.

Hadaway, who is in her fourth season as the Tigers coach, said her athletes are committed to playing lacrosse year-round, and that has made a big difference on her team.

"A lot of them are on club teams," she said. "The younger kids are getting more confident because they are playing together in the summer. I'm happy a lot of them are playing outside the season because that's how you get better."

Hadaway isn't opposed to players competing in other sports such as soccer in which she was a fine high school player in the Baltimore area. But to play lacrosse well, certain skills are required.

"All lacrosse players need to work on their stick skills if they want to [play in college]," she said.

Since arriving in the Pittsburgh area to attend Duquesne University, from which she graduated in 2009, Hadaway has noticed steady improvement in the area's players.

"What's helping the sport is that the coaches at Robert Morris and Duquesne are helping with the younger kids," she said. "We're starting to see some elite players come out of Pittsburgh, but we're still behind Eastern Pennsylvania, And areas such as Tennessee and Florida have passed us up."

Hadaway said her team's defense has been leading the way so far.

"Molly Montgomery, my co-coach who played in high school in Philadelphia and with me at Duquesne, has done a phenomenal job with our defense. She's put in a new defense that other teams are having a tough time with."

She's also pleased with freshman goalie Jana Garrow, who has a background in ice hockey.

"You can see that ice hockey players truly are athletes," Hadaway said. "Nothing fazes her. She plays with such confidence that she doesn't look like a freshman. She's fearless, and she does need a little more training. But right now, she does a great job stepping to the ball, and that comes with her hockey background. It's tough to get shots past her because she's so quick."

Garrow was one of the three starters missing against Mt. Lebanon because of the orchestra trip.

Offensively, Hadaway said the team's balance has been a guiding force in the Tigers offense.

"Senior midfielder Christine Palmeri is such a leader and a workhorse," she said. "She's all over the field, and she does score goals. But we've had a balanced attack."

Other leaders offensively include junior attack Rena Ferrara and sophomore attack Isabella Cottone.

At the moment, Peters Township is the team to beat as the undefeated Indians (11-0) are the top-ranked girls team by both Laxpower.com and the Post-Gazette.

Hadaway doesn't dispute the findings.

"They are skilled, and they deserve to be in first place," she said. "I don't think it's a disadvantage not to play them in the regular season, but I wouldn't have opposed playing them. We know who their skilled players are, but we'll be ready to play them if we meet them [in the playoffs]."

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