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PIAA girls lacrosse: Mars’ run ends at hands of Villa Maria Academy, clock in Class 2A quarterfinals

Mars girls lacrosse head coach Abby Latona, right, consoles Mya Cote after the 2023 PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals. Cote played her final game Saturday, scoring five goals in a loss to Villa Maria Academy in the state quarterfinals. Eagle file photo

UNIVERSITY PARK — For much of Saturday’s PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal playoff, Mars’ girls lacrosse team was outplayed by Villa Maria Academy.

In the closing minutes, however, the clock became a much more aggressive foe.

Trailing 10-5 with less than 90 seconds to play, the Planets reeled off three goals in the span of 47 seconds. They had possession afterward as well before a penalty handed control back to the Hurricanes, who soon closed out a 10-8 victory at Penn State University’s Panzer Stadium.

It was only the third loss of the season for the Planets (17-3-1).

“Things just weren’t clicking for us today until the end of the game,” said senior midfielder Mya Cote, who scored five of Mars’ eight goals. “We could’ve beaten this team but struggled with ground balls and ran out of time.”

It was a goal from Kennedy Kolson with 1:18 left that began the flurry that gave Mars hope.

Cote followed with her final score of the game, and Hailey Long’s tally closed the gap to two goals.

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“I definitely got a little nervous there late,” Villa coach Theresa Giunta said. “Mars changed things up on the draw, and our girls may have let their guard down a bit.

“We played with composure today, controlled the ball and that allowed us to be dynamic on offense.”

Villa’s possession game, and its ability to keep Mars from playing the same, was at the core of the Hurricanes’ success earlier in the contest.

Cote gave the Planets a brief lead when she scored off an assist from McKenna Merritt exactly two minutes into the game, but Villa answered with scores from Lila Traynor and Allison Meyer to lead 2-1 after one period.

A concerning trend had begun. Mars’ possessions often ended in a quick turnover while Villa was able to take time off the clock. The Hurricanes (18-6) used the tilted field to take a 6-2 lead into halftime. The advantage was 8-3 after three quarters.

“We scouted them well and knew what they wanted to do,” Mars coach Abby Latona said. “It just came down to execution, and we did not do it well today.

Related Article: Mars boys volleyball’s historic run continues with PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal win vs West Shamokin

“But our grit and fight in the fourth quarter gave us a chance.”

Ella Roach made seven saves for Mars. Quinn Hechler stopped four shots for Villa.

Alice Nash, Kayla Cellucci and Caroline Capaldi joined Traynor and Meyer in scoring a pair of goals for the Hurricanes.

In her final high school game, Cote led all scorers with her five goals.

“She’s an incredible player,” Latona said. “The impact she made on our program will be felt for a long time.”

The Planets lost at Penn State in the state quarterfinals for the second straight season, but 2024 yielded for the team a third WPIAL title in four years.

“Since September 1, we’ve been putting in the work,” Cote said. “Every day in practice, we all were showing up to get better and that’s pretty special. This is the best team I could’ve been a part of.”

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