Admittedly, the Pittston Area girls lacrosse coaches are learning on the fly. With nine seniors returning from last year’s squad, however, things have been a smooth transition for the first-year coaches, who also serve as coaches for the girls soccer team.
Head coach Nicole Tieso and assistant coach Sarah Donahue took over the team last fall and have been working tirelessly to make the transition from soccer to lacrosse. Tieso said the game is a combination of field hockey, soccer and basketball, sports with which both coaches are familiar.
She said the hardest part was learning all the different rules. This will be Pittston Area’s fourth season as a program.
“It’s certainly a change,” Tieso said. “We have to learn a lot but a lot of the things we are bringing in are the same — conditioning, fundamentals and teamwork.”
But so far, the coaching duo has taken their soccer philosophy, which was heavy on conditioning and teamwork, and putting that on the lacrosse pitch.
“We have seen great leadership from all the seniors,” Tieso said. “They are buying into our mentality and helping out where we need them.”
Unfortunately for the Patriots, senior Haley Norwillo will miss the majority of the season with an injured knee. Norwillo, who is the Pittston Area all-time leading scorer and scored her 100th career goal last season, tore her ACL in field hockey season. Norwillo has become a third coach for the team and may return for the final few games of the season.
Norwillo will attend Chestnut Hill College this fall. She was a Wyoming Valley Conference First-Team All-Star in her junior season.
“She’s truly an assest to the team,” Tieso said. “Everything she brings is going to be shown through the girls that are going to be playing. She’s definitely a leader.”
With Norwillo sidelined, Pittston Area will lean on its eight other seniors, including Dana Zalewski, Anna McDermott and Bianca Mattei-Miller. The attack trio are experienced lacrosse players and have shown they have a knack for scoring behind Norwillo the past few seasons.
Pittston Area will have to replace goalie Nicole Walters, who was lost to graduation. Walters stepped up for the Patriots last season and was named a WVC honorable mention at the position.
Tieso said soccer player Brooklyn Pedana volunteered to take over the position and has been excelling ever since.
“As she got in there she went for it,” Tieso said. “All of the other girls were struggling to score on her and she has no fear.”
One of the biggest things Tieso and Donahue brought to the Pittston Area soccer team, which won a district title in 2014, was teamwork and communication. Donahue is in charge of that aspect of the team, saying it’s all about communication when the team gets on the field.
The team has done ice breakers in the early part of the season, and team building exercises are a big part of their practices now.
“Communication on the field is extremely important,” Donahue said. “It promotes that the most. They are comfortable with each other on the field. We have a good time with it but the purpose is to promote verbal and non-verbal communication on the field.”
The Patriots fell in the opening round of the District 2 playoffs last season to Wyoming Area, 12-11. Pittston Area will open the season on Monday, April 4 at Crestwood.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick