Fike, Swanson guiding N-W offensive attack
By David Yarger
After falling last season in the Section VI Class B semifinals to rival Hamburg and losing top scorer Erin Wegrzyn, some wondered what expectations the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons girls lacrosse team would have in 2019.
The answer: still big.
Despite losing Wegrzyn, who was a First Team All-Class B and Second Team All-Western New York nominee with 59 goals, the Falcons return a core of offensive talent that will keep them competing in games throughout.
Junior Jocelyn Fike, who scored 43 goals as a sophomore, returns to the black and red this season, as well as seniors Alonna Swanson and Selena Justus.
To start the year, Fike and Swanson have been a one-two punch for the Falcons offense. Fike, through eight games, is at 39 goals and seven assists, while Swanson has notched 18 goals and assists. Most recently, Swanson took control of the scoring with seven goals in a 16-4 non-league victory over Notre Dame College of Welland, Ontario.
“I love Alonna and Fike,” Falcons coach Trish Pineda said. “When Fike’s on fire, it’s because of Alonna feeding her non-stop. They just have that connection to each other. She (Swanson) can see the open and Fike takes that opportunity to the net. … They both do really well on draws. Fike draws it to Alonna, Alonna picks up the ground ball, grabs it and goes in. Those two really feed off each other well. It’s great to see them play.”
In addition to the duo, Justus has added 18 goals and four assists through eight games. During the winter, Justus committed to play Division III lacrosse at Chatham University. As a sophomore, she chipped in 22 goals and 15 assists.
Judging the early season output, Pineda said the duo of Fike and Swanson have helped aid the loss of Wegrzyn.
“They definitely stepped up in the place of Erin,” Pineda said. “We miss her for sure, but we always say, ‘We’re never just one girl.’ When one talent leaves, someone else gets that chance to shine, and I feel like Fike has taken that this year with a chance to outgrow from Erin’s shadow. … She (Erin) is definitely someone to look up to and she’s (Fike’s) stepped in that role.”
Through eight games, the Falcons currently sit at 3-6. Despite a below .500 average, N-W has lost two games by one goal. So far, Pineda said she enjoys seeing the team battling back when it needs to – win or lose – but the team also can’t get too ahead of itself.
“Their ability to rally, even if we’re down. They don’t get down on each other, they don’t yell at each other. They have an ability to pull it together. If we lose the first half, then they battle back in the second half. We might not win that second half, but defense rallies together and we stop the goals coming in. We may lose the game altogether, but they rally really well.
“We’re working on not being too cocky. There’s been a few games where we’re up by five or four with 16 minutes left and we just almost get too confident and they come back; they want it more than us – they put a little more effort in. And sometimes we just don’t match that effort. So, for us, it’s just ‘they can always come back,’ ” Pineda said.
Pineda is fortunate, and also less fortunate to have 11 seniors on the roster. As much as the veteran experience can play key, Pineda said majority of the 11 get ample playing time, so the thought of losing them all at the season’s end is somewhat terrifying.
“Our seniors are pretty much the starting line,” Pineda said. “Our defense scares me the most, because they’re mostly seniors. So trying to recruit young defenders was my goal this year. I’ve been going to a lot of modified games and JV games to see who we’re going to pull up for that defensive end, because, yeah, there are a lot of seniors. I think Fike is one of the few starters whose been on the team and is going to remain next year for us.”
Despite falling in the semis last season, Pineda said the bar is still set high to reach the team’s first Section VI finals since 2017.
“Our team goals are staying together, not getting down on each other, keeping it positive and making it to the finals. Finals this year is our goal,” Pineda said.
The high-hope Falcons face West Seneca West at home at 6 p.m. Friday.
Alonna Swanson looks to dish a pass during Tuesday's game versus Notre Dame College. (Photo by David Yarger)