When a team leaves the field for the final time after a season-ending loss, the emotions can be quite raw.
But as the Quaker Valley High School girls lacrosse team took stock of what it had accomplished this spring and what lies ahead for the team next season and beyond, there is a sense of optimism.
"I'm really excited about next year," said junior attack Kayla Foster moments after the Quakers fell to Mt. Lebanon, 12-8, in a PIAA Division I quarterfinal game this past Saturday at Moon.
Foster is one of 10 starters who will be returning next season for coach Nellie Kraus.
"If you look at all of the things we've accomplished this year and the fact that we return the majority of our starting lineup, that's unbelievable, and I'm so excited for what's to come," Foster said.
Kraus likely was pleased with the season past and what's in store for her team.
"I'm proud of the way the girls handled themselves on and off the field," she said. "I thought our defense played very well, and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We had a great season."
The year yielded a perfect regular season, and it ended with a 19-2 record, the only blemishes being the losses to Mt. Lebanon by a 9-7 margin in the WPIAL Division I championship game and this past Saturday's setback to the Blue Devils at Moon.
Foster, a junior attack from Sewickley, was the team's leading scorer with 58 goals and 56 assists. Sophomore attack Emily Kraus, also of Sewickley, had 58 goals and 33 assists.
Other top scorers included sophomore attack Aubrey Bouchard with 48 goals and 15 assists, junior attack Lexi Meanor with 42 goals and 33 assists, Annie Henry with 27 goals and 3 assists and Megan Amoroso with 24 goals and 13 assists. All are from Sewickley.
Defensively, sophomore goalie Aubrie Tarris had a goals-against average of 5.9 goals per game. She also is from Sewickley.
Foster was mindful of the six goals Alyssa Battaglia scored to lead Mt. Lebanon to the victory this past Saturday. But when the Blue Devils complete their season, that will be the last game Battaglia plays for the Blue Devils. That's certainly not the case for the Quakers.
"All of our attack is coming back," Foster said.
Bouchard said her team learned a lot in the two games it played against the Blue Devils.
"We had never played them before the WPIAL championships, but since we'd seen them, we knew how to attack their defense," she said. "Some of their main defenders are seniors, and we have such a strong attack coming back. So, we're going to come back at them."
Bouchard said each win during the regular season was unique.
"None of us had the mindset that we were going to have an undefeated [regular] season," she said. "We just wanted to play lacrosse, and we bonded so well. Our chemistry was unreal. But when we lost the WPIAL championship, it gave us a chip on our shoulder. But we never got down on each other. We're going to bounce back from this loss next year."
Still, there will be some losses as six seniors will be graduating. That list includes defender Heather Peduzzi, who also played midfield for the Quakers. Peduzzi, who plans to play the sport on the club level at Penn State with plans to major in biology, was pleased with her tenure with the Quakers.
"We barely made playoffs last year, and we had an unbeaten regular season this year, so that was an amazing experience," she said. "I'm proud of this team, and our chemistry.
"We learned what our potential was throughout the season. I'm really excited to see what they will do next year."