South Xtra: Peters Township serves notice: West teams no longer pushovers

HIGH SCHOOL LACROSSE/PIAA PLAYOFFS

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The Peters Township High School girls lacrosse team has been sending a message eastward across the state: A high level of play has come to Western Pennsylvania.

Lacrosse is no longer a sport that is only taken seriously at the high school level east of the Alleghenies.

"I actually grew up in Philly so I played at a high school out east," Peters coach Kristin Slemmer said. "The girls start lacrosse so young [on the eastern side of the state] -- third grade, fourth grade ... you can tell that the girls have had sticks in their hands for a very long time. Their speed -- they're just tremendous at getting up and down the field."

The Peters' team has taken the eastern example and, uhm, run with it!

Although they lost, 19-9, Tuesday night to Radnor, the No. 3 team out of District 1 (suburban Philadelphia), the Indians' run to the PIAA semifinals was impressive.

In the loss Tuesday, Peters (19-3) had a major problem stopping Radnor's Reilly Masterson, who fired in seven goals to lead the Red Raiders charge.

Before that, it was smoother sailing for Peters. Last week, the Indians defeated Penn Manor, 17-15, in the first round of the PIAA tournament. Penn Manor was the No. 3 team from District 3 (the Harrisburg/York/Lancaster area).

On Saturday, Peters defeated District 6 champion State College, 16-4.

"I think, from start to finish, my girls really just gave their all," Slemmer said. "Our defense, they stepped up from the start, causing turnovers. Offensively, our shot selection was right on from the start ... it was just the connection of everyone on that team and everyone playing their roles."

In Saturday's game against State College, goalie Mel Morgret was instrumental, making five saves. That gave her 80 for the season (through Saturday). She was averaging 3.6 per game.

"She had a really big game," Slemmer said. "She was a really big contributor to our defense."

Caitlin Carey, a Duke University recruit, played a strong turnover game in the midfield against State College.

American University recruit Sarah Bootman won eight draws in the game, giving the Indians most of the draw control. She also scored four goals in the game.

"If the ball is in your stick, then obviously, you can score," Slemmer said in noting the importance of winning faceoffs.

Slemmer pointed out that Jacksonville University recruit Hannah Wilcox has been a great finisher; she scored four goals against State College last Saturday. Junior Allison Hurley had three goals in that game.

Being able to match lacrosse teams from the eastern side of the state has required the Peters team to travel. For Tuesday's game against Radnor, the Indians traveled three and a half hours to Cumberland Valley High School near Mechanicsburg. Slemmer explained that dealing with a long road trip was about keeping the players moving.

"If the girls need to take a little nap, they can do that, but we always advise them to wake up an hour before it's time to play," she said. "We do occasional stops, get lunch, and just get their feet moving so they're not sitting the whole three-and-a-half-hours. No one likes to do that."

Overall, Peters advanced to the third round of state playoff games with confidence and clutch team play.

"Our transition -- the passing game -- all the way from our defense up through the midfield down through the offense -- we've passed very pretty," Slemmer said.

"Also, our double teams [on defense have been] causing turnovers and interceptions."

Slemmer reiterated that the Indians have played with the motivation to represent their area and to make it clear that they can contend with the lacrosse teams from the more established programs on the eastern end of the state.

"I knew my girls' just wanted to keep fighting," Slemmer said.

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