Friendly foes Penn-Trafford, Latrobe to play for WPIAL field hockey title
Lauren Kelly is looking forward to never having to run line sprints again, which her coach Cindy Dutt has regularly implemented during the past week.
The Penn-Trafford senior also said she will fondly look back on each run, especially if it means her field hockey team wins a third consecutive WPIAL Class 2A championship.
“We just want to get the three-peat, so we’ll do whatever we have to do,” Kelly said. “This definitely means a lot to us.”
The last obstacle between Penn-Trafford and dynasty status is Latrobe, where field hockey became a fully funded school sport less than two years ago. Wildcats senior Max McMichael said her team has played together since they were at the club level.
“I didn’t imagine we’d be playing for a championship,” McMichael said. “We’ve grown so much as a team. We have 13 seniors, and most of us have been playing together for three or four years. It’s also underclassmen who have a lot of talent, and we don’t get too much recognition, so playing for a championship and having a chance to win it is really big for us.”
The Wildcats hope a lack of playoff experience plays in their favor.
“This is the first time Latrobe has had an opportunity to play in a championship game, and their girls want that win,” Dutt said. “My girls really want it. I think it’s going to be close, not a runaway. I think it’ll come down to the last buzzer. It’ll be a full 60-minute effort with all the girls going all out.”
Given Penn-Trafford beat Latrobe 1-0 earlier this season and the string of similarities between the two teams, there are plenty of indications the winner will need to play a nearly perfect game.
“We were just talking about this in practice,” Kelly said. “They want it just as bad as we do, and we’ve always had a good relationship with Latrobe. My coach has been close to their coach, and a lot of us started at the Y. Whoever wins, there will be a lot of mutual respect for each other.”
Latrobe coach Jeff Giordan called Dutt a mentor, though she said they’ve learned from each other over the last decade.
They’ve also coached together at Greensburg YMCA and have similar philosophies of quick transitions and precise offensive positioning to put pressure on opposing defenses.
Dutt said she once heard Giordan call out a play during a game, prompting a quick response.
“I was like, ‘Hey, you can’t use that, that’s my play,’ ” Dutt said. “I thought that was really funny.”
The players know each other, too.
Some have played together at the YMCA, which is a 15-minute drive in opposite directions from each high school, and both teams win with strong defense.
Latrobe defenders such as Ava Avolio, who is out with an injury, Eve O’Sullivan, Emma Shaulis, Jordan Desko, Alyssa Dempsey and Cecilia Daniele have played well, McMichael said.
Goalie Sarah Seremet has played a key role along with captains McMichael, Avolio and Ellie Yeager. She has saved 83.1 percent of shots she faced, including 22 of 23 against Penn-Trafford.
“Sarah is amazing, definitely one the best goalies I’ve ever seen,” McMichael said. “Her personality is so nonchalant about everything, and it’s reflected in goal. She’s always in the right place every time.”
Spearheaded by captains Natalie Wilson, Danielle Ochendowski and Kelly, Penn-Trafford’s leadership has been in good hands, said Dutt, who also commended junior goalie Sam Doherty.
“I’m telling you she has made some amazing saves this season,” Dutt said. “You wouldn’t believe it.”
Latrobe’s Lauren Jones and Lauren Sigut each have a team-high three goals, and Penn-Trafford is led by Allyson Doran’s four goals. Natalie Norman and Kaylie Melnick each have three.
Whoever wins, the coaches agreed, their players will be happy for each other.
“They know what we have, and we know what they have,” Giordan said. “It’ll be very competitive and respectful, and it will be fun to see how things turn out.”