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Mt. Lebanon lacrosse players relish experience at national tournament

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Duke University fell one victory short of advancing to the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse semifinals this past season. But that doesn't mean that Blue Devils weren't well-represented at the Final Four.

Four Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils were part of a team of Pittsburgh-area all-stars who competed in the U.S. Lacrosse Women's National Tournament over Memorial Day weekend at Lehigh University.

Mt. Lebanon rising seniors Alyssa Battaglia and Becca Welsh and juniors Amanda Riesmeyer and Elizabeth Donley helped team Pittsburgh to a 2-2 record in pool play and sixth-place finish in the Mohawk Division of the tournament that included more than five dozen teams comprised of the best underclassmen players from each region of the country.

“I loved everything about it,” said Welsh, a midfielder. “It was nice being able to compete with people all over Pittsburgh, and the tournament itself was really competitive. It was nice to get out there and show other people what Pittsburgh is all about on the lacrosse field.”

“It was really fun, and it was cool to be able to see all the different players from all around the country,” said Donley, a defender. “That was definitely a different thing for me.”

Welsh, Donley and Battaglia each already play for the Pittsburgh Select Lacrosse club team, while Riesmeyer plays for the Pittsburgh Premier Lacrosse club team. All were starters for the Mt. Lebanon team that this past season was a WPIAL Division I semifinalist.

The four Mt. Lebanon athletes were chosen for the team of 20 from among a field of 65 that tried out for Team Pittsburgh in April.

Battaglia was an all-WPIAL honoree and was joined by Welsh in being named a U.S. Lacrosse Academic All American. Each has a college lacrosse career ahead of her if she so chooses — Mt. Lebanon coach Brian Kattan said Battaglia is being recruited by Penn State. Welsh said she “probably” won't play varsity lacrosse because she wants to focus on a pre-med major.

Donley and Riesmeyer are only juniors but figure to attract heavy attention from college coaches soon.

“It's a tough tryout, especially with that many girls trying out (and) we had six local high school coaches as selectors,” Kattan said. “It isn't easy to make the team.”

The tournament was designed to coincide with the NCAA Final Four; it is hosted at a venue in close proximity to it each year. This season's Final Four was at Villanova University in Philadelphia.

“They do it that way because the national tournament is used as a recruiting event for the college coaches and most of the coaches from all divisions are there,” Kattan said.

Having four friends from the same high school team made the weekend that much more memorable for Mt. Lebanon's representatives.

“It wasn't quite as scary as it would have been otherwise, having them with me,” Riesmeyer said. “It helped with the whole experience.”

By spring, each will turn her attention back to aiding the Blue Devils in their quest for a WPIAL championship. Mt. Lebanon graduated four players after last season but Kattan said the team still will be good and will count on Battaglia, Welsh, Riesmeyer and Donley for leadership.

“We're working so hard just to make sure we're ready for next year,” Welsh said. “We definitely want to win WPIALs and see how far we can go in states.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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