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Led by PA’s Foley, local lacrosse is booming

By Tom Robinson For the Sunday Dispatch

May 3, 2014

Pittston Area head lacrosse coach Emily Foley never got her introduction to lacrosse until college.


The former field hockey and basketball player at Northwest, who took up the sport at Misericordia University, is now busy making sure Wyoming Valley Conference athletes get a chance to learn her college sport at an earlier age.


“It’s nice to give them the opportunity to learn the sport that I love and we all love a little bit earlier than when I was exposed to it,” Foley said. “I wish I had had more time to play.”


Kim Athanas, Jenn Foley, Krista Shenk and Dani Gross all came to Misericordia already familiar with lacrosse. Teammates with Emily Foley in college, they remain in the area and are also part of coaching local girls in lacrosse, the sport that has added the most programs within District 2 of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association in the past two seasons.


The Wyoming Valley Conference is in just its second year conducting lacrosse play with an eight-team girls league and seven-team boys league.


The five former Cougars found themselves on the same field twice this year, including April 25 when Athanas, with help from Jenn Foley and Shenk, guided Dallas against the Pittston Area team coached by Emily Foley, with assistance from Gross.


They gathered for friendly conversation, as recent teammates would be expected to, before and after leading their players through a competitive game in the developing league.


“We know it’s going to be a good game,” Dallas assistant Jenn Foley said. “We know the other team is being coached well. We know where they’re coming from, how they’re coaching and what their style is.


“We know it’s going to be a good fight every time.”


Dallas has roots in the Back Mountain Bandits youth team, which helped lead to a club program for the school’s players, followed by lacrosse becoming a school-sponsored sport with games against opponents from out of the area prior to the launch of the WVC.


Pittston Area parents had organized enough interested participants before Emily Foley was approached to coach the program from its start last year.


The Lady Patriots remained winless in the WVC as of midweek, but have been putting up a good fight, taking 3-0 leads against first-place Delaware Valley and again in the Dallas game before falling, 14-10.


Because of the Bandits, more of the Dallas players arrive with the high school team with some exposure to the sport. That has helped keep the Mountaineers around the .500 mark.


Still, the experience level is generally less for the high school players than when their coaches were coming through the sport. Athanas and Gross were teammates at Valley Central High School in Montgomery, N.Y., Jenn Foley played at Mercy, a prep school in Baltimore, and Shenk played at Conestoga Valley in Lancaster County, all areas were the sport has a longer history.


With differences in rules from the men’s/boys game, Athanas said the players needed that exposure rather than just watching a men’s game on television.


It was not the first time Shenk showed a new player the sport.


As freshmen college friends, it was Shenk who got Emily Foley to practice with her and encouraged her to go out for the team. Emily Foley went on to score 117 goals from 2009-2012, a total that ranked fifth in school history at the start of this season.


Emily Foley credits a dedicated Pittston Area parents club for getting everything set up before she came in as coach.


“Word has spread like wild fire,” she said, explaining a roster that has grown from 18 players on the school’s first team to 28 this season.


Wyoming Sem 17


Pittston Area 4


Pittston Area’s Haley Norwillo scored two goals for the Patriots but it wasn’t enough Monday.


Led by four goals each from Lexi Quick and Becca Schulman, the Blue Knights earned the one-sided victory against the Patriots.


Emily Herron and Elaina Menchi each picked up a goal in the loss. Nicole Walters made five saves for Pittston Area.


Coughlin 17


Pittston Area 3


Haley Norwillo had a goal and an assist, while Emily Herron and Dana Zalewski each scored a goal in Pittston Area’s loss to Coughlin on Thursday.


The Crusaders were led by five goals from Brigid Wood in the win over the Patirots. Kaitlyn Lukashewski contributed three goals and two assists, while Hailee Dumont had three goals in the win.