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Mars girls lacrosse team making strides in inaugural varsity season

| Saturday, April 26, 2014, 4:16 p.m.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Mars Kelly O'Connell drives down field against Knoch during the Varsity Girls Lacrosse game at Knoch High School on Tuesday April 22, 2014. Mars won 13-4
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Mars Kelly O'Connell drives down field against Knoch during the Varsity Girls Lacrosse game at Knoch High School on Tuesday April 22, 2014. Mars won 13-4
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Mars Bella Alampi drives down field against Knoch during the Varsity Girls Lacrosse game at Knoch High School on Tuesday April 22, 2014 Mars won 13-4
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Mars coaches Rich Schoeffel (left) Lindsay Flavion (center) and Meredith Vicente during the game against Knoch Girls Lacrosse at Knoch High School on Tuesday April 22, 2014 Mars won 13-4

The Mars girls lacrosse team is in its first year of varsity-level action.

So far, so good for the Planets.

Like the Mars boys lacrosse team, which debuted last year, the girls have benefited from a strong feeder program for younger players.

“Having that feeder program helps a lot. At least they have some kind of experience,” coach Rich Schoeffel said. “It's just been a matter of getting them confident in their passes and catches. Most of my team is freshmen and sophomores now. Even if they hadn't played much before and we had to teach them, we thought they'd be pretty good if they stuck with it. A lot of the girls did have some knowledge and some of them are pretty good. A lot of the girls are soccer players that transitioned from one sport to the other pretty well.”

With 27 of their 32 players either a sophomore or freshman, the Planets are young. However, they are eager to learn and improve.

“The girls are great. They are really responsive,” Schoeffel said. “Before the season started, I heard they didn't have anyone to coach them. The process was ongoing to try to find someone. Even before I stepped forward to coach them, they tried to have practices on their own.”

Schoeffel, a Mars softball assistant coach for the past four years, decided to take over the girls lacrosse program.

“I am kind of new to the sport. I came over from coaching girls softball and I coached football, too,” he said. “I thought it'd be interesting to get into lacrosse and get in at the ground floor.”

He was able to add former Seneca Valley lacrosse players Lindsay Flavion and Meredith Vicente to his coaching staff. Flavion was an assistant coach at Seneca Valley last year.

“It worked out great to get those two on the staff,” Schoeffel said. “We've only been together for maybe five or six weeks now, but we're doing pretty good with it. We're trying to mesh our coaching strategies. It seems to be working well so far.”

The Planets were 5-3 overall and 5-2 in WPIAL Division 2 Section 3. The top three teams from each section make the playoffs.

“I am not looking at the playoffs yet,” Schoeffel said. “We were playing really well and playing every other day. Then we hit that week when could only practice in the gym because of the bad weather. When you have 32 girls in the gym throwing lacrosse balls around, it's tough. But I am not even looking toward playoffs right now.”

Sophomores Shannon Doyle, Bella Alampi and Kelly O'Connell are the team's three captains. Senior MacKenzie Dunmyre starts in goal; Sara Weiss, Rachel DeSantes, Eden Fletcher, Brianna Bacco, Katlyn McKenzie, Judy Kahn, Camille Cipkins, Tori Kopchak, Cassy Buzzelli and Lilli Marcoux have started for Mars.

“We have so many girls that are so close. They make it tough for us coaches,” Schoeffel said. “No one has a full-time starting job. If they slack, other girls will get more playing time.

“Camaraderie is probably our biggest strength. Hopefully, it stays that way. Their willingness to learn and practice and try to stay together has been very important. It seems that when we're playing the game, all the girls are in the game even if they're not on the field.

“There's a lot we need to work on. Our defense was really bad at the beginning of the year, but we're improving. We need to be more consistent on offense. If these girls stick together for the next couple of years, we should be pretty dominant.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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