PIAA GIRLS LACROSSE: Upper Moreland tops Abington Heights in first round

S. ABINGTON TWP. — Annalise Messina showed the skill, speed, and athleticism that make her a college prospect and offset Abington Heights' worthy effort in its historic first state girls lacrosse playoff game.

Messina, who is committed to Rutgers, scored seven goals, including three crucial ones that provided the separation Upper Moreland, the fourth-place team from District 1, needed for an 11-9 win over the Lady Comets on Monday in the Class 2A first round at the Abington Heights High School athletic facility.

The Golden Bears (18-5) advance to Saturday's quarterfinal against the winner of Tuesday's Hershey at Bishop Shanahan first-round game. Abington Heights ends its season at 16-4, highlighted by the program's first District 2 Class 2A championship.

District 1 teams improved to 6-0 against District 2 opponents since 2021 in the first round of the state playoffs. Abington Heights' two-goal loss is the closest of the matchups.

"I am so happy to be a part of the first team at Abington Heights to win a district title and play in the state playoffs," Abington Heights attack Allie Rothenberger said. "I know that even though we came up short, no Abington Heights team has done this before, so it is still exciting. It really sets the bar high for next year.

"We are really proud of ourselves because we gave it our all."

Abington Heights couldn't overcome the tenacious attack of Messina when her team needed it most.

She scored the first goal of the game at 10:51, but Abington Heights answered right back when Sadie Gilbert scored off a rebound one minute later.

Then, Messina, Olivia Meakim, and Molly Meakim executed and scored three straight goals for a quick burst that built a 4-1 lead.

Again, Gilbert scored to cut the deficit to 4-2 at the end of the first.

"We just knew that we had to get our act together," Gilbert said. "When that first timeout hit, we knew that we had to fight."

Upper Moreland pushed the advantage to 5-2 on Messina's third goal. Abington Heights closed to 5-4 on goals from Rothenberger and Bella DeRiggi, only to see Messina at least dampen the energy with a goal off an assist from Keria Hess with 7:15 left in the half.

The teams traded goals to finish the quarter. Glbert flicked her wrist and scored off an assist from DeRiggi, but Olivia Meakim had a steal and scored 16 seconds later. Rothenberger fired one for a goal, but Olivia Meakim nearly crushed the spirit of the Lady Comets when she sprinted almost the length of the field and scored with no time left on the clock for an 8-6 lead.

It didn't take Abington Heights long to charge up the offense. Rothenberger scored off an assist from Gilbert that made it 8-7 with 6:58 left in the third.

"We have been down at halftime before, so facing a deficit is nothing new," Rothenberger said. "We knew that we could come back. We are not the kind of team that ever gives up."

That's when Messina took over the game.

She scored three straight goals, including two on fast breaks, to make it 11-7 at the end of the quarter.

Abington Heights continued to fight.

The Lady Comets drew to within 11-9 with 5:28 remaining when Gilbert scored two goals to finish with five in the game. However, Upper Moreland executed its slowdown offense to near perfection. The Golden Bears kept Abington Heights from regaining any offensive possessions to close out the win.

"When we got some momentum, it was good, but they are such a good team," Gilbert said. "This was just two very good teams going at it in a great game."

Upper Moreland 11, Abington Heights 9

UM Goals: Annalise Messina 7, Olivia Meakin 3, Molly Meakin 1. Assists: Molly Meakin 4, Olivia Meakin 2, Keira Hess 1, Willow Taylor 1, Avery Adamski 1.

AH Goals:Sadie Gilbert 5, Allie Rothenberger 3, Bella DeRiggi 1. Assists: Bella DeRiggi 3, Sadie Gilbert 1, Caly Yankow 1, Lauren Bartell 1. Saves: Sophia Santasiero 10.

Records: UM 18-5, AH 16-4.