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Nagging injuries catch up to Hempfield girls lacrosse in postseason

| Thursday, May 22, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Samantha Orie drives past Latrobe's Alexa Stynchula during their girls lacrosse game at Rossi Field on April 15, 2014, in Latrobe. Hempfield defeated Latrobe, 15-9.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield goaltender Jenna Jablonsky makes a save on a shot by Latrobe's Natalie Christopher their girls lacrosse game at Rossi Field on April 15, 2014, in Latrobe. Hempfield defeated Latrobe, 15-9.

When the Hempfield girls lacrosse team started the season 9-0, head coach Rebecca Bragan cautioned her team that its success through half a season would be tough to duplicate.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, she was right, as they finished just 2-5 down the stretch and slipped to second in Division II, Section 1 behind Latrobe.

“The mindset for each game wasn't as intense,” Bragan said. “For whatever reason, we just didn't have it.

“My defense for the most part was strong. But if you can't score, you can't win games. It's hustle and heart for a lot of those games.”

Despite injuries to top scorers Samantha Orie and Alyssa DePippo, Hempfield outscored opponents by an average of 14-7 through the first nine games. But eventually those nagging injuries caught up to the Spartans, as they were eliminated in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs last Friday by Blackhawk, 15-7.

“(The injuries) definitely hurt you,” Bragan said. “They still played, and we had a full lineup for the playoff game, but when you're playing with a sprained ankle, it's tough.”

The great start to the season was highlighted by wins over the teams that finished with the Spartans at the top of the section. They defeated third place Ellis School, 12-9, for the first time, and Latrobe, 15-9, for the first time since 2011. Despite the disappointing finish, the 11-5 record is the Spartans' best finish in program history.

“As much as it stinks, we still did better than last year,” Bragan said. “We didn't play bad, but we didn't play as well as we could have. At the end of the day, they did a good job.”

The future looks even brighter. Orie led the team in scoring as a freshman this season, and DePippo will be back for her senior year. While senior defensemen Amanda Gennaro and Katherine Hooper will both be missed, standout goalie Jenna Jablonsky will have another season to hold the defense together.

“We're losing four very good players,” Bragan said, “but we have enough on the bench that I think we'll be even stronger next year.”

The offense struggled in big moments throughout the year, but had plenty of teachable moments as well, which should amount to more efficient numbers next season.

“We have a very young team,” Bragan said. “I think a lot of these players learned composure this year, and next year they'll be able to turn that into aggression.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com.

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