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When Emmie Lau first picked up a lacrosse stick, she was attending grade school in Rhode Island.

“In first grade I tried softball and the coach put me in the outfield and I didn’t like that so I tried lacrosse instead,” Lau said. “I played in second grade to fifth grade at kind of a rec level and then I started playing club lacrosse in sixth grade. I wasn’t very good to begin with.”

Lau has improved quite a bit since she first took up the sport. And now she’s taking her skills back to where it all began.

Lau, a senior at Shady Side Academy, is committed to play at Brown University, a place she came to know quite well in her youth before moving to Pittsburgh five years ago.

“I love Rhode Island and the school I went to when I was there was right next to Brown, so I grew up playing sports on Brown’s fields,” Lau said. “It was part of the factor, but the thing about Brown is that I love the school and I think that it’s the right fit. The team focuses on building female leaders and not just lacrosse leaders and the locations was kind of a bonus.”

Lau certainly took her game to another level during her time at Shady Side Academy. She was an all-WPIAL selection each of the past two years and helped the Indians to the program’s first WPIAL Class 3A title this season.

For her efforts, Lau has been selected as the 2019 Post-Gazette girls lacrosse player of the year.

“I think where Emmie excels off the field is that she’s a leader by example in everything she does,” Shady Side Academy coach Katy Phillips said. “I just think that she is constantly looking to make everybody else around her better in whatever area that is. She coaches for me at Pittsburgh Premier and she’s a constant at all of our practices even as a senior. It just shows that she gives back all the time.”

As the top offensive player for Shady Side Academy Lau was the defensive focus of every team she played against. Despite the added attention, the 6-foot-1 attacker still finished with 60 goals, 14 assists and won 89 faceoffs.

She was also a formidable force in the WPIAL playoffs as she racked up a hat trick and an assist in a semifinal victory against Mt. Lebanon and also scored three goals in the Indians’ 12-11 two-day, double-overtime win against Upper St. Clair in the championship match.

Lightning forced play to be suspended in the title game with 28 seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied, 11-11.

“That has been my dream all four years to win a WPIAL championship and I think the big thing for me was I didn’t want to lose the WPIAL championship my senior year because that would have been disappointing,” Lau said. “It was definitely weird because on Thursday when we were playing, we had a huge student section and a ton of fans. We had to come back Friday and we looked in the stands and there was no one and it was weird. I don’t think the feeling ever fully sunk in because it was the most bizarre situation ever.”

Though she didn’t finish her high school career with a state title, she’ll now turn toward winning the Ivy League where the Bears were 4-3 last season. Now, when Lau takes the field, she’ll also be bringing some Western Pennsylvania lacrosse back with her to Stevenson-Pincince Field.

“Places in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, people grow up playing lacrosse rather than soccer, so their stick skills are better,” Lau said. “But Pittsburgh is definitely starting to get to that level.”