East Xtra: Hempfield girls stick to business this year

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The Hempfield Area High School girls lacrosse team has had an impressive start to its season.

Ranked No. 4 as of Monday morning in the Laxpower.com ratings for Western Pennsylvania girls high school teams, the Spartans have scored 55 goals -- an average of 13.75 goals per game -- while capturing four consecutive victories.

"This team has become very close on and off the field," third-year Spartans coach Becky Bragan said. "We've worked with them on how to be a team and have focused on teaching them that being a team is more important than what is being shown on the field."

But what has been shown is an impressive offensive display led by freshman attack Sam Orie.

She already has scored 17 goals through four games and has dished out six assists. Orie scored six goals against The Ellis School in a 12-9 victory. She scored five goals twice in victories against Yough, 15-4, and Greensburg Salem, 17-6.

"The best part of her game is that she's an athlete," Bragan said. "She does a good job of controlling the ball and staying composed."

But she's not the Spartans' only weapon.

Senior attack Hanna Crovak handles the Spartans' draws, and she already has scored 10 goals and dealt out 10 assists. Junior midfielder Alyssa DePippo also has 10 goals and eight assists.

"Hanna runs our attack and is a very selfless player," Bragan said of the third-year starter, who also is one of the team's captains as is DePippo. "Hanna does a good job of getting to the goal, and she also has good stick skills."

Bragan said one of DePippo's biggest assets is that she is left-handed, and that she also does a good job of getting to the crease and creating scoring opportunities.

Junior goalie Jenna Jablonsky is the Spartans' defensive cog. She has 45 saves heading into today's game at Indiana.

"She sees the ball very well, and plays it aggressively," she said.

Jablonsky was a freshman when Bragan became the team's coach.

"At that first practice, I told her she was going to be the goalie, and she thrived on it and has done a phenomenal job."

Senior defender Amanda Gennaro is just as crucial to the Spartans' defensive effort as Jablonsky. She already has committed to play her college lacrosse at Robert Morris.

"Amanda has great footwork and does a good job of stopping the other team's fast break and getting the ball out of our area."

Hempfield plays host to Greater Latrobe next Tuesday, and Bragan is trying to keep her team focused on the "one-game-at-a-time" approach. But there's no denying that this is a big game for both teams.

Heading into this week's action, Latrobe had a 5-0 record and was ranked No. 5 in Laxpower.com's rankings.

Since Bragan has been coaching the Spartans, Hempfield has not defeated Latrobe.

"If we could do that, it would be a big win," Bragan said. "But I don't believe in tunnel vision. We're trying to focus on every game, but beating them would give us a chance at winning a section title, and that's something we've never done."

Hempfield must replace six starters from last year's team that lost to eventual WPIAL runner-up Chartiers Valley in the second round of the playoffs.

"I'm happy where we are right now, but we still have a lot of work to do," she said.

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