Defending WPIAL champion North Hills hoping to seal lacrosse legacy
Their dominance hasn't been matched in nearly two years. But the roots of the North Hills girls lacrosse team's 37-game winning streak reach back much further.
“It's been more than the past two seasons,” said Indians coach Rachel Hoza, who began coaching most of the Indians' nine-member senior class while they were still in junior high. “My starting lineup has been the same for really the past six years.”
And so the upcoming WPIAL Division II postseason represents more than just a chance to repeat as champion for North Hills (17-0).
Three more wins, beginning with Thursday night's quarterfinal against visiting Baldwin, would make for a grand finale to a great legacy.
“It's about doing it for each other,” senior midfielder Natalie DiPaolo said. “Knowing this is the last time we're all going to be playing together, it's important to go out on that note.
“In seventh grade, we thought it was such a big deal winning a tournament. Now, coming from WPIALs and being undefeated again, it's awesome seeing how we've improved over the years.”
Indeed, the Indians might be playing the best lacrosse of their lives — most notably, on the score sheet. Their average goals per game has increased by nearly two from last spring to a WPIAL-leading 16.24, and their 8.53 average margin of victory ranks second in the league.
“We have this bond, playing with each other for so long,” midfielder Emily Jamison said. “Each one of us knows what we're going to do before we do it.”
And if the ball gets to Jamison, it's not difficult to predict the result.
Typically, it's a goal.
A recruit for Division-I Robert Morris, the prolific senior leads the Indians with 83 scores and creates opportunities for teammates, as well.
“She's our captain and the big threat on our team,” Hoza said. “A lot of (opponents), they know our team well enough now that they'll triple-team her, but I have a whole field of threats.”
With four other players on the roster scoring at least 31 goals, that's no exaggeration. Despite missing the end of the regular season with a hamstring injury, DiPaolo remains second on the team with 49 tallies. Following her are Kara Scherling (45), Jordan McKenna (44) and Ciara Barry (31).
“It's like one big family out there,” said DiPaolo, who hopes to return for the playoffs. “It's about making up for each other and filling in. We have to keep moving forward.”
That's the direction these girls have been going in for six years.
“They've honed their skill with the positions they play so well that they've become naturals,” Hoza said. “It's amazing to watch.”
Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5697.