North Allegheny’s field hockey championship result of teamwork |
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North Allegheny seniors (from left) Nicole Burns, Hannah Downing and Megan Guzzardi celebrate after winning the WPIAL championship in field hockey Oct. 28, 2014.

North Allegheny senior Jessica Brandon led her team with 23 goals this season, but she couldn’t tell you that.

It’s not that she lost count.

She just didn’t keep track because it didn’t matter that much to her. Her NA field hockey teammates also couldn’t recall how many goals they had.

Maybe that selflessness is why North Allegheny was so successful this season and dominated play on its way to a second consecutive WPIAL championship over Pine-Richland, 4-0, on Oct. 28.

“I think that’s cool that we don’t know,” said senior Nicole Burns, 17, of Franklin Park. “For us, if we win and play well, no one cares about our stats. We just want to be the best team on the field.”

Though North Allegheny lost 2-1 to Penn Manor in the PIAA first round, it can’t be disputed that NA is the best team in WPIAL.

The Tigers allowed just one goal against them in 14 games against other WPIAL teams.

“I think that’s hard to explain how it’s possible,” said senior Megan Guzzardi, 17, of McCandless.

She paused.

“Or maybe it isn’t,” she said. “It’s the offense working with the midfield and both of them working with the defense. Everyone plays together when we defend our goal. Our forwards, everyone, plays back. We all support each other. There’s no one person or one group doing all of the defending.”

There is a formula to North Allegheny’s success in field hockey. The school has won 12 of the last 17 WPIAL AAA championships.

It starts with North Allegheny’s middle school team.

“Our core group of girls ahead and behind us started out in middle school playing together, so we’ve had so much time to get team chemistry that it definitely translates on the field six years later,” said Brandon, 17, of Marshall.

“A lot of us play on a club team together, too, so we continue to improve over the winter.”

Teammates also push each other in practice and sometimes make scrimmages against each other harder than their actual games.

“We have a stacked team,” said senior Hannah Downing, 17 of Wexford, one of the team’s captains. “Some of the drills we do are intense because we’re playing each other, and everyone is pretty good.”

“There’s definitely a little one-on-one competition on the team,” she continued. “When Megan and I go up against each other, I think it’s always a little battle, so we’re definitely a very competitive team. We can get pretty serious. It’s just hard work, and it paid off.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.

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