Hempfield girls lacrosse searching for 1st winning season

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Hempfield girls lacrosse had never had a winning season.

That could change this year.

The Spartans are 4-1 overall and 3-1 in Division II, Section 1 under the reins of second-year coach Rebecca Bragan and assistant Megan Mittleider.

Ellis handed the Spartans their only loss, but the 19-8 defeat was uncharacteristic for Hempfield, which is preparing for the section rematch April 25.

“I don't think how we played reflects how the girls' ability is,” Bragan said. “It's tough to go on a grass field when you expect to play on turf. I think it got in their heads a little bit.”

Hempfield is in its fifth year sponsoring girls lacrosse. The Spartans were 6-12 last year, 1-11 in 2011, 0-12 in 2010 and 1-10 as independent in 2009.

Mental toughness and structure have been something on which Bragan has focused. The Spartans lost 10 players to graduation this year, forcing them to fill a lot of positions.

The toughest to replace was four-year starter Jenna Gilianardo. Sophomore Jenna Jablonsky has stepped up in only her second year playing the sport. Other sophomore starters are Alyssa Deppio, Brooke Miller and Sydney Whorral.

“We definitely had to fill in a lot of holes,” Braga said. “I have a very strong sophomore class. Three of my starters right now are sophomores. They've worked really hard in the offseason. Our sophomore class has helped us a lot.”

Among the returners are captains Mary Burns, Lauren Condrasky, Julie Ryan, Erin Ward and Lexi Greene.

Burns acts as the driving force in the midfield. She has 26 assists and succeeds through her ability to keep her composure. She tallied six goals and six assists in a 16-4 victory over Yough.

“I want to share the ball more,” Burns said. “It's a total team effort. We are playing really well together and that's definitely a factor in why we are playing so well. If we keep it up, we could definitely do something in the playoffs.”

In addition to scoring, defense has been a component Bragan wanted to strengthen. She moved Ward from attack to defensive wing and the defense has responded. Ward leads the team in interceptions and ground balls.

The Spartans have been playing without leader Lauren Condrasky, who has been out for a week and a half with injury. She hopes to return later this week to pick up where she left of as the team's second-leading scorer.

Condrasky has been a positive influence from the sidelines, trying to make the best of the situation.

“Even though I'm not practicing physically, I'm sitting there watching the drills and watching coach teach them,” she said. “I see things that I remember that I should try.”

The Spartans have the tools to continue to have a successful season. The game plan is to take it one game at a time as they prepare to face Ellis and avenge their only loss. Bragan says it will come down to belief.

“They just need to believe in themselves and what they can do,” she said. “Sometimes, they still focus themselves with what type of team they used to be like and not the type of team they are now.”

Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer.

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