West/North Xtra: Quaker Valley girls enjoy 8-0 start to lacrosse season

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Quaker Valley High School girls lacrosse coach Nellie Kraus believes her team has come up with the right formula for success that has yielded victories in all eight games this season and a healthy balance on offense.

"I have a lot of confidence in our offense, and just the way they see each other [on the field]," said Kraus, in her third season as the Quakers coach.

Quaker Valley is idle until next Tuesday after the team improved to 8-0 and has a No. 2 ranking in the Laxpower.com ratings following a 14-3 victory against Oakland Catholic this past Friday in a non-section game.

"They're very unselfish," Kraus said. "There are more assisted goals than unassisted goals. That's just a product of teamwork."

On April 22, the Quakers play host to Seneca Valley (3-4), the No. 7-rated team in the ratings, in a Division 1, Section 2 game.

Quaker Valley's defense has been severely tested once this season when the Quakers outlasted section rival Fox Chapel, 19-14, on April 1. Every other opponent has been held to eight goals or fewer, and the Quakers have had double-digit results offensively in all of their games.

Quaker Valley's other close contest occurred on April 8 when the Quakers rallied to defeat No. 6 North Allegheny, 11-8.

The defense's backstop is junior goalie Aubrie Tarris, who played forward on the Quakers' Penguins Cup Class A championship boys hockey team, which also was the state runner-up.

"There are a lot of similarities between hockey and lacrosse," Tarris said. "Communication is important [in both sports]. That's the biggest factor coming in. You want to pick up on slides and stuff and players keying on other players is important in both games."

Kraus is pleased with Tarris' talent in the net.

"All sports help you [in lacrosse], no matter if it's basketball or soccer [or ice hockey]," the coach said. "You can see the field well. She plays on the boys' hockey team, and they are probably a little more physical and vocal. But her hockey experience has not only helped her on the physical level but as a team member."

With this team, there hasn't been one or two go-to players that other teams can focus on defensively. Five players have scored 10 or more goals this season. Junior midfielder Kayla Foster leads the way with 30 goals and 22 assists. Sophomore attack Emily Kraus -- the coach's daughter -- is next with 26 goals and 13 assists, and junior attack Lexie Meanor has 15 goals and 17 assists.

"We really stress the assisted goals," Foster said. "That's something that's really important to us. We want to make sure we finish all of our shots, no matter what."

Emily Kraus said she and her teammates always try to find the player who has the best shot on goal.

"We try to see each other, so it's not like it's always on me [to score]," Emily Kraus said. "Everyone [works for the open shot] together."

That's a philosophy Kraus has emphasized since she became the team's coach.

"I like to focus on unselfish teamwork, and not caring about who's getting the ball in the net," she said. "We're just making sure it happens and going for the smart pass and finishing [plays] well."

Another area where the Quakers are hoping to finish well is in the WPIAL Division 1 tournament, The past two seasons, the Quakers have seen their season end with one-goal losses in the tournament.

Two years ago, Quaker Valley dropped an 11-10 decision to Mt. Lebanon in the quarterfinals. A year ago, the result was even more painful in a 9-8 loss to Shady Side Academy in the quarterfinals.

"We were up by three goals against Shady Side, and it was a heartbreaker to lose by one goal," Nellie Kraus said. "This year, we're hoping to make it no contest."

Before the Quakers reach the playoffs, there will be a crucial game that could determine playoff seeding if the opponent in their final game continues to play just as well as Quaker Valley has played.

Just as Quaker Valley is leading Section 2, Mt. Lebanon is ruling the roost in Section 1 with an overall record of 10-0. The two teams meet in the regular-season finale for both teams on May 9 at Quaker Valley.

"We're taking it one game at a time, so we'll see what happens," Kraus said. "But we have played them before during indoor season, and it's always been a close match. We're looking forward to playing them."


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