New SCH head lacrosse coach Allison Thomas makes a point during a halftime huddle with her team. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

There were a few relatively balmy days over the first week-and-a-half of March, but when the girls of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy took to the field for their first interscholastic lacrosse outing last Thursday, it definitely felt like the calendar had been flipped back a few pages.

Into the second half of the game-situation scrimmage, the Blue Devils’ offense was almost as cold as the weather, and visiting Abington High School built up an 8-4 advantage. Over the last 19 minutes the hosts heated up, and they emerged with an 11-10 margin on the scoreboard.

The Devils are under new management this spring, although rookie head coach Allison Thomas had previously been an instructor at lacrosse camps run by the school. A product of a strong Conestoga High School program, Thomas went on to Lehigh University, where she was a first team All-Patriot League selection as a junior and a senior. After her playing career ended in 2011, she spent last spring as a member of the Mountain Hawks’ coaching staff.

Her assistant with the SCH varsity this season is 2012 University of Delaware graduate Kalyn McDermott, and there are fresh faces on the sidelines for the JV team, as well. Stephanie Bianco, who wielded a stick for Indiana University of Pennsylvania up until last spring, is joined by

Megan Cippoloni, who was co-coach of the SCH field hockey team last fall.

Six seniors graduated from the Blue Devils’ 2012 lacrosse squad, but there are eight on this year’s roster. Duke University signee Kitty Morrissey will serve as the club’s lynchpin at center, and the other senior who has her college plans in place is Taylor Wrubel, an offensive midfielder who will attend Trinity College.

For last week’s scrimmage, Jennie Lukoff and Maud Simms were at the top of the attack and back at deep defense, respectively, with classmate Vanessa Pierce performing in the midfield. Senior Shelby Jackson is a goaltender for the Blue Devils along with freshman Elsa Rall, and the other two upperclassmen are Jackie Willits and Gianna Pownall. Pownall is a newcomer to the sport, but the first team All-Inter-Ac basketball guard has been picking up the game very quickly, and she started on defense against Abington.

The SCH varsity roster includes just one junior, Winter Chernak, but there is a healthy supply of sophomores and freshman. The Blue Devils’ top squash player, 10th-grader Francesca Fabiani, proved as adept with her crosse as with her racquet in last Thursday’s foray, while her classmate Sinead Brierly reprised her starting role from a year ago. Maddie Aslansan, Sarah Mathes, and Carlin Rode round out the sophomore contingent.

Goalkeeper Rall was already a varsity player last year as an eighth-grader, as were two more current freshmen, Natalie Schwartz and Mikaela Watson. The other ninth-graders who have made the first team are Remi Fillipini and soccer scorer supreme Megan McCool.

After Abington’s opening goal was matched by the Devils’ Fabiani at the start of Thursday’s trial run, the Ghosts went ahead again and continued on to a 5-3 halftime advantage. Morrissey netted the second SCH goal, then Brierly charged right down from the following draw to score the third.

Watson got SCH back within one point with her strike in the opening minute of the second half, but the visitors banged in three in a row to go up 8-4.

Over the last 19 minutes McCool would net all of her team-high three goals. Abington answered her first goal within half-a-minute to make it 9-5, but then Wrubel started SCH off on a decisive 6-0 run. The string included two more markers by McCool and one each for Watson, Morrissey, and Fabiani.

Abington closed it up to 11-10 with four minutes remaining, but the Devils hung onto their slim lead the rest of the way.