After a nerve-wracking weather delay that spanned 17 hours, Upper St. Clair lost its bid for its first WPIAL championship in girls lacrosse, falling in double overtime to Shady Side Academy, 12-11, at Robert Morris University’s Joe Walton Stadium.
Though Molly Walsh dashed the Panthers’ dreams for a District 7 title, scoring the decisive goal with five seconds remaining in the second, three-minute overtime, their hopes for a title are not over.
USC will begin its quest for a PIAA Class AAA championship when it battles Garnet Valley Tuesday at State College.
“Overall, I think the girls worked really hard,” said USC coach Bri Laffey. “They gave their all. We just need to keep our heads up and stay positive. We know that we can still go on to win states.”
The WPIAL, however, belongs to Shady Side because the Indians weathered the storm and the pressure.
A perennial finalist, the Indians, themselves, won their first title. They appeared to have wrapped up the championship as they opened up the widest margin of the game, a 10-7 advantage, with 16 minutes to play in regulation before the Panthers waged a comeback.
With 28 seconds remaining in regulation, Shady Side also had the advantage with possession but the contest, started May 23, was postponed because of lightning. Action picked up exactly as it ended May 24 with all the players assuming the positions they had before leaving the field for the weather delay.
“We would have liked to play it out, but unfortunately the lightning wasn’t stopping,” Laffey said.
“Honestly, I didn’t get much sleep,” she added. “I had so many thoughts going through my head about different situations on the field. I had to block them out and be confident in what we are building and working on.”
Laffey thought when play resumed the placement and knowing where every player was positioned gave USC an advantage because the Panthers had a game plan. Though the Panthers intercepted Shady Side and put a shot on goal in the final 28 seconds of regulation, the contest moved into overtime. In the first extra quarter, USC dominated, but was unable to convert opportunities.
“Those 28 seconds kind of weighed on the girls because it didn’t seem like a lot of time left and they did not have the ball but I knew they would come out hard and they did. Unfortunately, it was not the turn out we wanted,” Laffey said.
“I don’t want to say that we were nervous going into overtime, but I think they definitely were amped up that we were able to knock that pass down and take it into overtime so I think it was unexpected for them,” she added. “It was nerve-wracking.”
USC’s first title appearance impacted the outcome.
“They fought hard,” Laffey said, “but this was their first championship experience. We haven’t hit a level like this before.”
USC, however, played up to SSA’s level. The Panthers struck first on a a pair of goals from Olivia Gerlach and Haley Newton in the opening 81 seconds of action.
In a contest tied seven times, the Indians responded with three goals before USC opened its largest lead, 6-4, with a three-goal run from Haley and Lindsey Newton as well as Lauren Hart within a 44 second span (10:50 to 10:06) in the first half.
Though they fell behind by three tallies with 16 minutes left in regulation, the Panthers responded once again. Lauren Hart tied the match, 11-11, scoring her second tally with 3:57 left in the second half. She finished with two assists.
For the game, Lindsey Newton registered the hat trick. Haley Newton and Celena Kerr also scored twice. Olivia Gerlach and Hannah Thompson provided single goals.
In addition to Walsh’s four goals and two assists, Emmie Lau, a Brown recruit, and Dylan Green had hat tricks for Shady Side. Addie Todd and CeCe Messner scored single goals.
Despite the defeat, Laffey has been pleased with the Panthers, their play and their achievements this spring.
“The girls played extremely hard,” she said. “Obviously you don’t want to lose but this is actually one the best things that we have done in the last eight years or so. I think it’s great for them to have had this experience.
“They have now had the pressure of a game like this with this magnitude so I think moving forward they will be a little more prepared come the state playoffs and the future.”