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Franklin Regional girls lacrosse showing progress in 'building year'

Doug Gulasy | Murrysville Star
The Franklin Regional girls lacrosse team celebrates a goal by freshman Danielle Hodowanec (6) during a game against North Allegheny on April 1, 2014.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Franklin Regional girls lacrosse team is still building toward becoming a playoff-caliber team, but the Panthers are beginning to show signs that they can compete with some of the higher-quality opponents in the WPIAL.

After combining for a 1-29 record in 2012 and 2013, Franklin Regional's record stood at 2-7 after a 16-9 loss Monday night against Fox Chapel.

While the Panthers face an uphill climb to make the WPIAL postseason, coach Eric Barnabei said he is seeing signs of progress in what amounts to a “building year.”

“We have a lot of talent on the team, and they improve daily,” Barnabei said. “Pretty much every game they play, they get better. That's exciting.”

Although Franklin Regional lost seven of its first nine games, the Panthers showed competitiveness, losing a 9-8 decision to North Allegheny at the buzzer and falling by three goals against Fox Chapel in the teams' first meeting. All but one of the team's losses last season came by six goals or more.

Last season, Franklin Regional won its season opener against Hampton before dropping its final 15 games. The losing streak extended to 17 games before the Panthers earned a 16-8 victory over Hampton in their third contest of the 2014 season. Three games later, Franklin Regional picked up its second win, 16-9 over Sewickley Academy.

“It was kind of a breakout game for us,” Barnabei said. “It was exciting.”

Franklin Regional is a young team, with three freshman starters and several sophomores playing key roles. Despite that, some of the team's younger players are playing like upperclassmen, Barnabei said. Freshman Danielle Hodowanec scored five times in Franklin Regional's victory over Sewickley Academy, and Anna Stephens is playing well as an injury replacement, Barnabei said.

“What I find is the girls break out their junior year, or their third year in,” Barnabei said. “It's probably a combination of growing and confidence. But to see it happening at the freshman level is exciting. I have a lot of excitement for the future of this team. Having freshmen who can score four or five goals in a game is unheard of. It's not a common thing, and we have a couple of them who can do that.”

Another freshman, Maria Cephola, is the team's starting goalkeeper.

Barnabei said the team is improving in its transition play as well as on offense and defense. Senior attack wing Brisa Colaizzi is the team's top goal-scorer, but Barnabei said the Panthers are getting also getting strong play from attack wings Jessica Watt, defense wings Ellen Gray and Annie Painter, center Sarah Stephens and defenders Mia Meixner and Alexa Milstein.

“Everybody out on the field's been pulling their weight,” Barnabei said.

Franklin Regional traveled to play Shaler on Tuesday, past the deadline for this week's edition. The Panthers will play at North Allegheny on Thursday.

“Just getting all the pieces together and improving, I think this team could contend,” Barnabei said. “The section's tough that we're in. I think we probably have to win out to make playoffs, (but) I definitely think they're going to pick up a couple more wins. I feel very positive because they know how to do it. They know they can do it now. The confidence is back.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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