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Sacred Heart, St. Joe’s capture MMAA Lax titles

It was a championship three years in the making for the Sacred Heart Sharks.

For the St. Joe’s Marauders, it was three in a row.

Sacred Heart and St. Joe’s both got to celebrate as they took home Monsignor Martin Lacrosse championships at Canisius College’s Demske Complex on Wednesday night.

For the past two seasons, Sharks’ coach Kristina Geschwender has been doing everything she could to get her players to play with more discipline.

After all the drills in practice and the trips to Erie, where officials called everything to the letter, the Sharks turned into the disciplined team Geschwender had been looking for.

In the Girls Championship game, Sacred Heart showed that discipline, as they took few shots and played keep away in their 4-3 upset win of the Mount St. Mary’s Thunder to capture its first league title since 2014.

“Our goal was to take smart shots and keep possession because we knew it was going to be a possession game,” Geschwender said. “We didn’t want to force anything. We were going to wait for our opportunity.”

And wait they did.

After taking the opening faceoff the Sharks rarely let the ball go for the entire first half.

Gina Perna put Sacred Heart on the board when she fired one in from five yards out a minute and a half into play.

The Sharks got their second goal of the day when Georgia Stockman took advantage of a free position chance from seven yards out with 16:36 left in the half.

But the score didn’t quite indicate how much Sacred Heart dominated the opening half.

“We wanted to keep the ball and dictate what was going on,” said Perna, who was named Monsignor Martin Offensive Player of the Year. “This is what we’ve been looking forward to all year. (Our seniors) have wanted to get revenge on them since freshman year.”

The Mount responded quickly in the second half.

Margaret Merigold sent a pass from behind the net to Emma Telesco who put it home just 29 seconds into the second.

On a similar play, Telesco took a pass from Lois Garlow and shot it in to tie the game.

The Thunder took the lead as Garlow put in a backhand shot with 20 minutes left.

However, the Sharks weren’t giving up on the upset bid that easy as Kayleigh Colleary battled through two defenders and shot it in to tie the game at three.

Less than a minute later, Sacred Heart’s Emily Yarbrough scored on a free position chance for what turned out to be the game-winner.

“Out of all the teams we’ve played this season (Sacred Heart) was the toughest,” Mount St. Mary’s coach Paige Printup said. “One of our biggest problems is communication. You have to tell someone when you’re open and when you have three people on you.”

The Sharks hunkered down and went back to keep away for the final 14 minutes.

Perhaps bigger than their ball-hogging efforts was Sacred Heart’s play on the defensive end. The Sharks routinely doubled and even tripled team the Mount’s best scorers in Merigold and MMAA Defensive Player of the Year Garlow.

The Sharks gave the tall task to their senior captains Yarbrough and Victoria Sippel.

Cassie Kamens was strong in net for Sacred Heart making six stops.

Both sides had something to cheer about at the half, when Monsignor Martin Executive Director Pete Schneider announced that a Girls lacrosse Catholic state championship tournament will be held next year with three dioceses from downstate.

In another low-scoring affair, Kellen Pulera scored six goals as the St. Joe’s Marauders powered past the Nichols Vikings 9-4 to win their third-straight Monsignor Martin championship.

“Three-peat wasn’t even something we thought about years ago, but now it’s an expectation,” St. Joe’s coach Peter Hudecki said. “We’re getting guys to come to our school that are lacrosse first athletes, when in the past it was their second or third sport. I also have a phenomenal coaching staff.”

The Marauders took advantage of a slow start by the Vikings.

St. Joe’s Hunter Parucki grabbed a ground ball and took it coast-to-coast for the game’s first goal.

Less than two minutes later, Parucki found Pulera who quickly fired it in to give the Marauders the two-goal lead at end of the quarter.

Nichols got their first shot of the game two minutes into the second quarter and got their first goal of the game soon after. Marcus Ottaviano found a lane and fired it for the score.

The Vikings scored again when Matthew Berdysiak found the back of the net to tie it up.

But St. Joe’s found their rhythm again as Casey Kelly sent a pass to Pulera to give his team the 3-2 lead at the half.

A great play from Jackson Glynn led to a game-tying goal for Nichols when he intercepted a pass at midfield. Glynn took the ball, beat a defender and then found Berdysiak wide open on the door step for the goal with 1:01 left in the third.

However, the Marauders got the lead back for good when Pulera scored with 16.9 seconds left in the quarter.

“After (Nichols) tied it up I knew we couldn’t let them win,” Pulera said. “We’ve worked too hard this season for this end. I wouldn’t have scored all those goals without my teammates.”

Pulera’s big play continued getting three goals as St. Joe’s outscored the Vikings 4-0 in the fourth quarter.

“He’s one of those guys that make big plays,” Hudecki said. “He had a bit of a slow start to the season, but he’s become a leader on the field and in the locker room. The guys feed off of him.”

The Marauders will face the winner of St. Anthony’s/Chaminade in the Catholic State Championship game that will take place early next week.

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