Behind the four-goal performances of Lauren Hart and Haley Newton, Upper St. Clair defeated Pine-Richland, 13-7, in a WPIAL Class AAA girls semifinal lacrosse playoff game May 20 at Mars.
The victory snapped the Rams' two-year reign as WPIAL champions and paved the way for the Panthers to battle for their first title. USC battled Shady Side Academy, a 7-5 winner over Mt. Lebanon in the other semifinal, in the title game May 23 at Robert Morris.
The win avenged USC's only defeat of the season.
The Panthers opened the 2019 campaign with an overtime loss against the Rams. USC, however, went on to win the section title, with a thrilling, come-from-behind win against Lebo, before earning the top seed in the Class AAA tournament.
Clinging to a 7-6 halftime advantage, and after trading goals to open the second half, USC made its move.
With 11:30 to play, Hannah Thompson had a free position shot following a P-R foul. Though Thompson had not missed on these opportunities all season, goalie Abigale Levier got a shoulder on the ball for the save. The ball, however, deflected into Celena Kerr's stick and she fired it into the wide open net for a Panther goal.
One minute later, Newton picked up a mishandled pass by the P-R defense. On her shot the Rams were called for a shooting space violation because the goalie was a yard outside the circle. Newton then buried her free position shot into the empty net, providing a three-goal cushion.
USC tacked on three more scores from Liv Gerlach, Newton and Hart to complete the five-goal run.
Aria Dietrich excelled in the nets. The Panther goalie made eight saves on 15 shots.
Though the Rams jumped ahead with a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game, USC responded with goals from Kerr (Gerlach assisted), Hart (2) and Newton to forge a 4-1 advantage at the 17:43 mark in the first half.
In addition to Hart and Newton, USC received multiple goals from Kerr and Gerlach, both with two tallies. Lindsay Newton, who had the other score, provided two assists. Gerlach, Haley Newton and Kerr, also recorded assists.
SSA beats Lebo
Emmy Lau proved the difference in the other semifinal showdown as the Brown recruit exploded for four goals and one assist in leading Shady Side Academy to a 7-5 victory over Mt. Lebanon.
"Emmy is a great player. A four-year starter that is very good at draw controls and she beat us a lot," said Lebo head coach Brian Kattan.
Fate also did not favor the Blue Devils. They hit the post four times.
"We played well, but in a game like this you have to make every possession count," Kattan said. "We played hard and we did not give up.
"Shadyside is a good team and they are coached very well but we were unlucky and we fell behind big in the first half."
Lebo fell behind, 3-1, and trailed at intermission, 4-2. The Blue Devils slipped back further, 6-3, before scoring twice on goals from Maddie Reisinger and Lainey Donaldson in the final nine minutes.
Emelia Krakora initiated the scoring, giving Lebo a brief 1-0 lead one minute into the contest. Cara Lynch made it 4-2 with 33.2 left in the first half. Reagan Murdoch made it 6-3 with 16:34 to play.
The loss did not end Lebo's season. The Blue Devils had an opportunity to qualify for the PIAA tournament by winning a consolation match against Pine-Richland.
"We've had a great season so far," Kattan said. "We need to regroup and be ready to play in the consolation game."