INDIANA, Pa. — Brenna and Mollie Gallagher found themselves in a unique situation this season for Indiana (Pa.) University's women's lacrosse team.
The sisters, both Seneca Valley High graduates, contributed to the Crimson Hawks as a head coach and senior defender, respectively.
“I made it clear to the team before the season that Mollie was another player on the team. That's how I treated her,” Brenna said. “If you came to one of our practices or games, you'd never know that we are sisters.”
Playing for an older sibling was a transition for Mollie Gallagher.
“It was hard. We aren't just sisters, but best friends,” she said. “She's the one who taught me how to play lacrosse and has always supported me. But as my coach, she was in charge of me.
“But our relationship as sisters did not affect the team in any way. We were able to balance it out with our maturity.”
Brenna starred as a player at IUP (2012-16), finishing her career No. 1 in program history in ground balls (161) and second in caused turnovers (91). She was named second team All-American as a senior.
Mollie followed in her footsteps, not only to IUP, but also as an elite defender. She just wrapped up a decorated career by earning second team spots on both the conference and region level for the second straight year.
“I came to IUP as a little fish in a big pond,” Mollie said. “I watched my sister play so well here and always looked up to her. Being named All-Region, that still throws me off because I never thought I'd get that.
“I feel good leaving the program because I know I did everything I could. I always wanted to give 100 percent heart and hustle and I did that.”
The younger Gallagher's effort impressed her sister, not that she was surprised.
“I've always said that Mollie has earned everything she's gotten,” said Brenna. “She has pride in this university and the athletic department here. She doesn't concern herself with personal accolades, just wins and losses.”
The Gallaghers helped IUP (10-7, 8-4) return to the playoffs this spring, Brenna's first as head coach of the Crimson Hawks after guiding Division III Misericordia University, near Wilkes-Barre, in 2018.
“There's a lot more speed in Division II, so I could add more strategy to the gameplan (this year) because I was working with better athletes,” Brenna said.
“They just missed the playoffs here last year and my goal was for us to get back,” she added. “We started out slow, but played East Stroudsburg in early April. At the time, they were ranked ninth in the country and we beat them (12-10). That got us ranked in the top 25. We ended up winning seven straight and making the PSAC tournament.”
IUP's season ended with a playoff loss to Seton Hill, but Coach Gallagher saw 2019 as a success.
“We had only three seniors who started consistently,” she said. “We had a freshman in goal and a young defense. I'm excited about the future.”
As for Mollie, who will graduate in December with degrees in early childhood development and special education, she's not ready to leave IUP lacrosse behind.
“I'm going back to be a volunteer assistant coach,” she said. “I'd love to be a head coach one day, maybe not in college, but at the high school level. My goal is to teach and coach.”