Shaler seniors have big plans in girls lacrosse
In a perfect world, a coach takes over a young team, installs a program and takes a season or two to improve and make a championship run. That is where the Shaler Lady Titans sit this season.
Four years ago, Jen Perestock took over the program and helped the team capture a section title.
The squad continued to improve under the direction of the young coach, and in each of the previous three seasons the team has made its way to the semifinals.
This year, however, the group of freshmen who were in place when Perestock took over is a skilled group of experienced seniors, and the team looks like the championship contender it was almost destined to be.
Midfielders Andra Labanc, Rachel Dalancey and Kristel Chatellier, attacker Courtney Ambrozic and goalie Saige Greygor give Perestock veteran presence at every level of the field. That presence led to a 7-0 record in section play.
“It's the camaraderie with the outstanding physical skills … where one lacks, another makes up,” Perestock said. “If you put that together, it's like puzzle pieces that form a masterpiece. That's what we need.”
Perestock said Ambrozic is an amazing attacker and has the ability to get to the net almost whenever she wants.
“If she wants a goal, she'll score it,” Perestock said. “She was an academic All-American last year and is very fast, and at 6-foot tall she gets around.”
Although she has a knack for scoring, Ambrozic said it was not an easy skill to learn.
“Lacrosse was hard for me in the beginning,” she said. “I used to play a midfield position even though I am not much of a runner. The things that really made the sport click for me were getting a good stick, switching to low attack position and tossing the ball around with my sister in the back yard.”
With Ambrozic being the scorer, Labanc is often the one feeding the attackers. Perestock said she is good at draws and plays great defense.
According to Perestock, Dalancey is the fastest player on the team, Chatellier can make all the plays and Greygor may be small in stature but plays larger than life.
“Saige is the team's heart,” Perestock said. “She is aggressive and controls our defense.”
Although the five seniors have not played together their entire careers, Dalancey said it doesn't seem that way.
“It feels like we have been together forever, which is really nice,” Dalancey said.
The girls are not just a team in the sense they practice and play together, Greygor said.
“We are close off the field, which helps us on the field,” Greygor said. “Our coach brought us together; she has been with us all four years, which is a good thing (for the team).”
Greygor said that when Perestock and her first freshman class came together, there was kind of a silent pact made: This group would win a WPIAL championship someday.
That day may be coming soon. Shaler is one of the tougher teams in the division, and although nothing is guaranteed, the team feels good about its chances.
“We have to keep our head in it and not get lazy,” Greygor said. “There are times where we have played to our competition. We have to stop doing that and not let our heads get too big. We have to work hard in practice.”
Labanc said keeping up the communication is another important factor.
“We have to keep our eye on the ball and keep up our play,” Labanc said. “We won the section as freshmen and are in good shape to do it again this year. This year we are driven, we want it … we are focused.”
Chatellier said it would be special to capture the section title again. She has attended camps and clinics to improve her game and said this has been a fun experience.
“We want this to end on a good note,” Chatellier said. “We have been together and built really good chemistry.”
The chemistry is obvious to those who have seen the team play, and although there is a great deal of pride in this team, the goal is plain and simple.
“Honestly, I'm expecting to win WPIALs this year,” Ambrozic said. “Of course, I would still be proud of our team's accomplishments regardless of the outcome, but we have the skill and the drive to win it all.
“This is the strongest team I have ever been on, and I couldn't be more excited for what we have in store.”
Perestock seems to have instilled the right mindset for success within the team. She preaches working together, something that made a difference as the individual talents pulled together.
“They are an awesome, awesome group,” Perestock said of the seniors. “They are my sanity. They are doing things before I have to tell them.”
Ambrozic said it is hard to put into words how far this team has come.
“We have virtually the same team as last year,” Ambrozic said. “(What we did was) improve on everything that might have been bringing us down. Everyone on this team is strong and talented in her own individual way, and our offense, in particular, has the ability to run a dozen different plays at any given time.”
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.