Lacrosse preview: A new coach, a new team and an old team gone

Mar. 23—The local lacrosse landscape will look different this spring.

Meadville will feature a girls varsity team for the first time and the Bulldogs have a large roster with a lot of underclassmen. There may be a learning curve for the 'Dogs, but the future is bright at Bender Field.

Also in girls lacrosse, the Conneaut Eagles will feature a new head coach. Longtime leader Scott Shannon is now coaching a college team on the West Coast and first-time head coach Sarah Kelly will lead the Eagles.

In the boys ranks, Meadville returns a lot of talent and is poised to make a run at Cathedral Prep for the District 10 crown. Conneaut's boys team, due to low numbers, will not have a team this season.

Meadville boys

The Meadville boys lacrosse team returns a lot of starters and goal scorers this season after last year's 8-4 campaign.

Juniors Gino Gilberto and Robert Mahoney return after scoring 31 and 22 goals, respectively, a season ago. Also scoring more than 10 goals was Cody Schwab (17), Logan Shaw (16), Ben Hilson (15) and Preston Phillis (12). Schwab led the team with 30 assists while Mahoney and Hilson added 20 and 17, respectively.

"Our attack is definitely strong this year and we will be counting on them getting even stronger as the season grows on," Meadville head coach Charlie Anderson said. "Our midfield is also looking good with two of our seniors, Ben Hilson and Matt Kaste, hustling to no end for the possession. Logan Shaw, a junior, is also an impressive middie that seems to be in the right place at the right time consistently."

On defense, Anderson will look toward Cole Sobolewski, Chase Anderson and first-year senior Jake Friters to take the lead.

"They all have impressive stick skills when it counts," Anderson said. "Our goals for the season are to take one day at a time with perfecting our fundamentals, our offense and of course chase the D-10 title.

Goalie Zach Travis returns after 127 saves last season.

Meadville is on a collision course with Cathedral Prep for the District 10 crown. The Bulldogs have met the Ramblers four straight times, with the 'Dogs winning once in 2019.

"We do have Zach Travis in net and he is looking better than ever this year he is very focused and ready for this season," Anderson said. "As far as the Ramblers go they are a strong team and this year they are gonna see a strong group of Bulldogs heading their way. We have a lot of returning players with a lot of experience and everyday I think we are getting better and better."

Meadville girls

The 2024 season will be the Meadville girls lacrosse program's first year with a varsity team. The Bulldogs are coached by Frances Kennedy, a first-time head coach, who is excited to get started.

The program began last year with a middle school club program orchestrated by James Fadden. Fadden was the head coach and Kennedy offered her services as an assistant coach.

"I did not have a lacrosse background, nor experience coaching a team sport. James did not have a girls lacrosse background either, but he did know the boys game well as his son plays for Meadville," Kennedy said. "My focus initially was on the conditioning and strength training of the team as I do have a background there. I have been a trainer at BLPF (Bill Lawrences's Personal Fitness) on and off for about 10 years. As the season progressed James took the lead on defense and I on offense as our coaching duties split."

This season, Fadden was set to lead the varsity program, but a few months before the season started he was unable to do so.

"We spoke with several individuals who were interested in joining the program in that capacity, but no one could fully commit to the time needed," Kennedy said. "That is how I found myself in the position to apply and accept the position. Never did I imagine I would find myself in this position but as nervous as I was to take on the responsibility and role, I have found that the team has a great support system here."

Kennedy is thankful for the support system of the athlete's families, athletic director Jason Fisher, the boys lacrosse team, the Meadville Lacrosse Board, other coaches, Allegheny lacrosse, and Georgie Volna, former Meadville alum and current interim head coach for the Allegheny women's lacrosse team.

The varsity team consists of 25 girls while the middle school club has 10. On varsity, the team is mostly freshmen, but four seniors and several other upperclassmen populate the roster.

Seniors on the team are Annabella Ross, Sara Pifer, Sophia Shaw and Marnasha Stout.

"I will be leaning on the returning players. We have a wonderful group from last year. Our four seniors will start every game. They came out knowing they were only going to play for one season. That means a lot to me," Kennedy said. "From there we will have a rotation since this is our first varsity team.

"I want all of the players to get the experience of having their name announced in front of their family, friends and classmates. I know that isn't something everyone gets in their high school sports experience and it is important to me that we are in a position to do that for them this season."

Kennedy expects the team to learn the game, play and have fun in year one.

Meadville opens the year with a home game against Cathedral Prep on April 5.

Conneaut girls

The Conneaut girls lacrosse team has had a very successful couple of years. Conneaut won its third straight District 10 championship in the spring and several recent standouts went on to play college lacrosse.

The mastermind behind Conneaut's rebuild was Scott Shannon, now coaching college women's lacrosse at Eastern Oregon University. Leading the Eagles this season is Sarah Kelly.

Kelly is a lifelong lacrosse player and a recent graduate of SUNY Geneseo where she played women's lacrosse. She recently moved to the area when her fiance accepted a coaching position with Allegheny College.

"I took a chance at looking into the girls lacrosse programs in the area. To my surprise there was a very successful and prominent program right down the road at CASH," Kelly said. "I decided to go through the interview process, and was stoked to be given the opportunity to take over the team."

Kelly is hopeful to build on the past success of the program, while also growing the middle school program to help feed the varsity team.

"These girls have played a lot of lacrosse together and continue to work well as a cohesive unit with a lot of support from the local community members and their families. Past success can have several positive effects on a team of athletes, especially when they've played together extensively," Kelly said. "This team in particular will be coming into this upcoming season confident due to their past success, and resilient because of their ability to come out with a new coach like myself at the helm.

"I look forward to guiding these young women toward another successful season and another District 10 Championship."

Conneaut finished 11-7 last season. Gone from that team is standout Jaqui Detelich, now playing at PennWest Edinboro. Kelly anticipates a team-wide approach to fill Detelich's scoring output. She expects big things from Camille Turner, Alayna Ott, Lana Johnston, Victoria Medrick, and Isabel Meyer. Young players that could play a big role are Lily Detelich and Kaylee Greely.

Conneaut opens the season on April 2 against Riverside (Ohio) at home. Its first region game is a varsity only contest at Fairview on April 4.

"Being the new coach for a team that has had so much success has proven to be a wave of different emotions. First, I know that I want to continue the success of the team in terms of their wins and losses within the District 10 level," Kelly said. "But even more so I also want to see the team succeed even further with cohesion and commitment from each player to get to the next level of winning at the postseason level."

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at