In an attempt to get ready for something new, Frontier’s girls’ lacrosse team has been preparing for the unfamiliar by doing something old.
The Falcons’ opponents are still feeling blue.
Unbeaten Frontier is no longer part of Class A. It hasn’t stopped the Falcons from playing and beating their ex-rivals even though they no longer are part of that division. They hope that prepares them well for the Section VI postseason in Class B – where more rivalries could be waiting to bloom.
A drop in enrollment is the reason Frontier, which was a Class A by just two students last year, finds itself in the second-largest classification. The change in class doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be an easier road to another title for the reigning Section VI Class A champions. That fact isn’t loss on longtime Frontier coach Tim Myslinski – even though Lancaster meeting Frontier for the Class A title is no longer among the guarantees of life. The Falcons met Lancaster seven straight seasons for the Class title winning last year and in 2011. Tuesday, Frontier defeated the Legends again, 13-7, this time in a non-division encounter. Now, though, Myslinski and his team have a new challenge in Class B.
"There are tremendous, great teams in B," said Myslinski. "I’m looking forward to it (the new challenge). You’ve got Niagara Wheatfield, who’s always a powerhouse, and Hamburg."
Ah, Hamburg – the six-time defending Section VI Class B champion, located within the same town as Frontier. Two championship outfits in the same bracket. Frontier defeated its crosstown rival twice last month, 10-6 and 12-6, but it be no surprise to see them meet again in the Class B sectionals.
"Our crosstown rival is now a division rival," Myslinski said. "That’s a really big deal. I went to (college) in Ithaca and our huge rival was Cortland. The biggest small game in the country was Ithaca versus Cortland. I really feel that way with Hamburg. It’s a huge deal. We’re looking forward to it."
"It makes it exciting and Class B very competitive," said Hamburg coach Katy Ryan. "Every year is challenging. You never have the same exact personnel so each year is unique."
The change in class may be unique for the Falcons but some things haven’t changed. Frontier has lost just once in its last 30 games. The Falcons’ quest for success has been driven by several familiar faces, including senior Taylor Gehen.
On a team featuring 11 returnees, Gehen is one of five who will move on to play college lacrosse either at the Division I or II levels. Committed to Towson (Md.), Gehen has 32 goals after scoring 49 times in 18 games in 2017. Myslinski said Gehen is the best player in Western New York. She’s a complete player.
"Coaches from Towson watched her play for three minutes, and said I need that girl on my team," Myslinski said. "That’s what she brings to the field, athleticism. She’s one of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached."
She’s not the only player to watch on the Falcons. Teammate Haylee Tatar has 16 goals and 43 points. She matched her schoolam record for assists in a game (seven) in a rout of Orchard Park recently. She’s planning to go to Division II Gannon, where she’ll be joined by teammate Marianna Alleca. Katie Dlugosz (19 goals) is heading to Division II Slippery Rock. Marissa Comerate (19 goals) is going to Mercyhurst.
Class A door ajar
Frontier’s enrollment drop and move to Class B means at least one team that hasn’t been to a sectional final recently has a chance to do just that. The only teams in Class A beside Lancaster are Orchard Park, Clarence and Niagara Falls.
Orchard Park is 2-2 since its 5-1 start but owns a win over Clarence. The Quakers are balanced with experience, speed and athleticism. They’re led by senior Morgan Baxendale, who is headed to Division II Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire, She leads Class A with 41. Senior captain Maura McCabe is committed to Division II Gannon.
Clarence is 4-5 but has been dealing with injuries and illness to several starters. The Red Devils hope to be back at full strength by the start of the playoffs. Top players include goalie Olivia Bakowski, attacker Madison Leeper and middie Emma Faso.
Lancaster is off to a 4-3 start, with the Legends dropping a pair of one-goal decisions (Amherst and Clarence). The Legends, who have won 11 of the last 13 Section VI Class A titles, have three key players who should be vital to their success. Maddie Mazur has 27 goals and is a returning All-WNY pick. Camryn Lucarelli is a defender committed to Canisius College. Stephanie Herrnreiter is coming off a second-team All-WNY season.
The defending Monsignor Martin-champion Mount St. Mary Thunder have 11 returnees, with the biggie being perhaps junior Lois Gawlow.
The Coastal Carolina commit recently surpassed 100 career goals and 200 points. She’s making a run at the Mount St. Mary season record of 71 goals.
Seniors Maragret Merigold and Samantha Miller will play collegiately at D’Youville and Chatham University, respectively.
The goal for the Thunder, according to coach Paige Printup, is to go unbeaten in league play. Thus far they’re 5-0. Looking to deny the Thunder is Sacred Heart, which has played the Mount tough twice already this season.
Around the circle
• Lake Shore is averaging 14 goals per game with Ivy Santa and Jalyn Jimerson, two seniors committed to Division I schools leading the charge. Santana, a University at Albany commit, leads the Eagles with 23 goals and 41 points. Jimerson, who signed with Syracuse, follows with 20 goals and 37 points. The two-time defending Section VI Class C champions, have won 40 of their last 46 games with the losses coming against Rochester-area teams.
• Hamburg’s quest for seven straight championships will be fueled by returning second-team All-Western New York pick Emma O’Neill, who will play college hockey at Division III power Norwich. Others to keep an eye on include junior attack Tori Lettieri and goalkeeper Jess Grabar.
• Amherst of Class C is off to a 7-2 start with a win over Lancaster. The Tigers have eight returnees looking to win their first sectional title since 2015. They include three juniors, Caroline Yoder, Grace Van Buren and Charleigh Rondeau.
• Williamsville South is off to a good start behind second-year starting goaltender Keegan Gillman and senior Gannon commit Ivy Carey, who has 16 goals.
• Sweet Home’s top players include Raven Williams (17 goals) and sisters Renee (nine goals) and Autumn Lauer (on defense).
• East Aurora has moved into Class C, which means Class D joins Class A as four-team classifications.
• The Section VI Tournament begins May 21. The Far West Regionals are June 2 at a Rochester site. The Monsignor Martin semifinals are May 20 at 5 and 7 p.m. at Canisius College. The final is May 23 at 4 p.m. also at Canisius.