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Latrobe girls lacrosse wraps up another playoff season

| Tuesday, May 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

It was a pretty quiet bus ride for the Latrobe girls lacrosse team as it made its way back from a win over Greensburg Central Catholic on April 24.

That was before the news spread that Ellis School had defeated Hempfield, which opened the door for the Wildcats to make a run at the Division II Section 1 title.

“The girls went crazy,” Wildcats coach Kaytie Russo said. “We had the opportunity to be full section champs, which we hadn't done yet. That was the fuel that lit the girls.”

In 2013, Latrobe claimed its first section title as co-champions with the Ellis School. Once the Wildcats knew they had full control of their destiny this season, they took advantage of it.

After defeating the Centurions, Latrobe won the next four, including the regular-season finale against rival Hempfield to split their season series and secure the section title.

The Wildcats fell to Mars, 11-10, in the WPIAL quarterfinals May 15.

Under Russo's guidance, Latrobe has made the playoffs three of the past four years. Its 14-3 record, including 11-1 in section play, was the best yet.

“I never had a team that worked so well together,” said Russo, a 2007 Latrobe graduate and former player. “I think the advantage is we had eight returning starters.”

The Wildcats were sixth in the WPIAL in goals per game with an average of 12.6. Jessica Kostic led the team in goals (53) and assists (28). Katie Stallings, a St. Vincent recruit, was second with 43 goals to go with 15 assists, followed by Anna Ayers with 36 goals and 21 assists.

The defense was anchored by Alexa Stynchula and goalie Kaitlyn Bereit.

A big reason for the breakout season, according to Russo, was a change in the offseason workout program. Before the focus mostly would be on conditioning, but Russo decided to switch to a more lacrosse-oriented program that focused on passing, catching and footwork.

The girls soaked up all they could. Because they were such a tight-knit group, they quickly figured out each other's tendencies.

“Off the field they're all really good buds, and it translates to the field,” said Russo.

Now that Russo has cultivated a winning culture, she hopes to keep the Wildcats atop the difficult section and advance deeper into the playoffs.

“We've shown that we can get to the playoffs,” she said. “Now we want to show we can do something in the playoffs. That's the main goal.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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