A-K Valley Spotlight Athletes: Justyne Lasher and Christian Miller
School: Ford City
Report card: An outside hitter, Lasher helped lead Ford City to a WPIAL Class AA championship, the school’s first in volleyball and first in any sport since baseball won in 1988. The Sabers’ kills-leader is the daughter of coach Andrea Lasher and sister of freshman libero Kenzie Lasher. The Sabers upset top-seeded and previously unbeaten Freeport in the semifinals before defeating Thomas Jefferson in five games to secure the title.
How did it feel to win a WPIAL championship in Ford City’s final year as a high school?
It was pretty exciting knowing that Ford City has never won a section title or a WPIAL championship. It’s been exciting knowing we made history our last year.
What is it like playing for your mother?
Sometimes it is a little bit frustrating because she knows she can be a little bit harder on me. But I know that she pushes me to my full potential, and that helps me a lot.
What has the experience been like having your sister and mother with you?
Not many people get to say they won a championship with their mom and sister, so it’s pretty cool.
How familiar were you with Freeport?
Some of the girls on our team played with them in the offseason, but I didn’t know them very well. We got to watch the Freeport-Kittanning first-round match, but that’s the only time we got to see them this season.
What was your game plan going in to that match against Freeport?
We knew they were going to be a tough game. But after we saw them play, we practiced some defensive switches and just knew that everyone was going to have to be on. And fortunately that’s just what happened.
What was that feeling like when you scored the final point against Thomas Jefferson?
At first I really didn’t know how to feel. Since the game went to five games, I was relieved at first that we pulled it out. There were so many mixed emotions. Whenever they were handing the medals out, that’s when it really sunk in.
What are your feelings about the Ford City-Kittanning merger? And the new mascot name (Riverhawks)?
I’m looking forward to it, to meeting new people and extending the volleyball program even more. Kittanning has some really talented players, too. I’m pretty sure I voted for a different name than Riverhawks, but I can’t remember what it was. I know I voted for the (blue and orange) colors.
Report card: Miller is a co-captain of the Armstrong Riverhawks, which includes players from Ford City and Kittanning. It was the first varsity team to form as a result of the pending merger. Miller leads PIHL Class AA in goals (9) and points (16). He is a four-year letterman and also was a member of the Section 1-AA champion Kittanning golf team and the Wildcats’ baseball team.
Your team is kind of the template for the Armstrong merger. How would you describe the transition?
It’s been great. It was a big transition getting used to the coaching because I was used to the Kittanning coach. It’s been great getting along with the Ford City guys. My best friend and co-captain is from Ford City (Josh Oliver).
How long have you played hockey?
I put on skates for the first time when I was 3 years old. So I’ve been playing for about 14 years.
Do you have any interest in continuing your career beyond this season?
I’m actually going to play next year at the junior hockey level. I’m waiting until halfway through the season or until after to see what offers may be on the table.
What are the team’s goals for this season?
The first part is getting to the playoffs and past the semifinals, but the goal is definitely to win a state title.
How do you feel about the mascot name Riverhawks? Did you vote for it? What would you prefer?
I probably would not have picked that one. I liked the Miners. But it’s not a bad name, and I like the logo on our jerseys.
How would you describe your playing style?
I feel I’m more of a power forward. I get to the net and try to put it in the net.
What’s more fun, scoring a goal or delivering a big hit?
I enjoy hitting for sure, but nothing is better than scoring a big goal in a big game.
On a breakaway, do you prefer to shoot or make a move?
All depends on what I see in the goaltender in warm-ups. It depends on his style. If he sits back in net, definitely shoot. If he likes to come out then deke and try to pick the right move.
If you had a penalty shot against any NHL goalie, who would it be? Why?
I’d probably pick (Marc-Andre) Fleury since he’s a hometown guy and I’m a big Pens fan.
What was your nine-hole match average during the golf season?
It was around 38, but I’m about a 5 handicap on 18.
— Alex Novickoff