Shady Side Academy hoping for changing of guard in girls lacrosse playoffs
Peters Township has established itself as the premier girls lacrosse program in the WPIAL in recent years.
Shady Side Academy hopes it's time for a changing of the guard.
Peters Township has won four of the past six WPIAL Division I championships, including last year, but enters this season's tournament as the No. 2 seed behind Shady Side Academy.
Shady Side Academy lost two meetings with Peters Township last season and was beaten again by its nemesis earlier this season. But a 12-10 victory against Peters Township on April 23 is what earned Shady Side Academy the top seed.
“We know that if we play well, we are capable of winning any of the matchups in the tournament,” SSA coach Emily Schaknowski said. “(The win over Peters) definitely did build our confidence, and we consider it an important win for our team.”
Shady Side Academy (13-1) opens the tournament by hosting Quaker Valley in the quarterfinals 7 p.m. Thursday. Peters Township (14-2), No. 3 seed Pine-Richland (14-2) and No. 4 Seneca Valley (11-3) host quarterfinal games Friday.
Peters Township remains the No. 1-ranked team in Western Pennsylvania by laxpower.com. But it's Section 1 champion Shady Side Academy that carries a 12-game winning streak into the postseason.
SSA was a semifinalist last season for the first time since moving up to Division I.
“We have worked hard to reduce the number of unforced turnovers and fouls in the defensive end,” said Schaknowski, in her second year at Shady Side. “We have stressed the importance of decision-making. We have been able to score all season long, and we have worked hard to improve our defense. We have a very hard-working and intelligent group of girls, (and) we have stayed healthy so far and there is great chemistry on the team.”
Seniors Felicia Tissenbaum, Lia Winter and Michela Jaffe are joined by sophomore Charlotte Redican as Shady Side Academy's top scorers. Senior Mickey Saperstein and sophomore Kara Pooley serve as athletic defensive midfielders, and sophomore Gabrielle Harchelroad has been a standout at goalie.
Peters Township has four Division I recruits: defender Izzy Dignazio (Philadelphia University) and midfielders Sarah Bootman (American University), Caitlin Carey (Duke) and Hannah Wilcox (Jacksonville University).
“We're feeling really good about our chances,” Bootman said. “We have a lot of talent across all the grade levels on our team. We're just really excited, and we know if we work our plan, we'll achieve our goals.”
No matter what happens, there will be a first-time champion in Division II this season.
North Hills won the past two titles but was eliminated by Bethel Park in a play-in game Tuesday. The Black Hawks face No. 1 seed Shaler (15-1) in the first quarterfinal Thursday. Chartiers Valley (14-2), which lost in the finals to North Hills each of the past two seasons, is the No. 2 seed, followed by No. 3 Latrobe (10-5) and No. 4 Ellis (11-2).
Shaler has won 11 in a row and its only loss this season was to Division I power North Allegheny on April 6. Chartiers Valley also is undefeated against Division II competition.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.