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Peters Township in firm control of Western Pennsylvania lacrosse

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 11:21 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review
Peters Township's Connor Buzzelli works past Central Catholic's Luke Lewis during a game Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at Central Catholic.
Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review
Peters Township's Connor Pike controls during a game against Central Catholic on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at Central Catholic.
Randy Jarosz | For the Tribune-Review
Peters Township's Christian Coleman picks up a ground ball in a game against Central Catholic on Wednesday, April 13, 2013, at Central Catholic.

To get to the center of the WPIAL lacrosse universe, take Route 19 to McMurray.

Peters Township High School boasts boys and girls lacrosse teams that are ranked No. 1 in Western Pennsylvania by the respected website Neither has lost to a WPIAL team this season.

“It's really cool to share being ranked No. 1 with them,” said Sarah Bootman, a senior midfielder on the girls team. “The girls and the boys teams, we're both just really, really, really into lacrosse.

“Most of us are friends with most of them and have known them forever. We kind of live the same lives because we play the same sport. Our schedules are pretty demanding, but we go to their games and they go to ours whenever we can.”

The reigning WPIAL champion Indians' girls team is 8-1, its only loss to a ranked team from Ohio. The Indians' boys are 11-0 after beating defending WPIAL champion Seneca Valley, 11-7, on the road Friday.

“In the preseason, you always look at your schedule and you sort of try to map out how the season is going to go based off matchups every week,” Indians boys coach Mike McBride said. “Under our best possible scenario then, I didn't have us undefeated at this point. We're playing above and beyond what we'd expected, so I'm very happy with the team.”

The girls long have been an area powerhouse, winning four of the past six WPIAL championships. The boys' program has been solid but has not advanced past the quarterfinals since the WPIAL began sponsoring boys lacrosse in 2009. The boys did not qualify for the postseason last year.

McBride said the teams support each other.

“We know we're second fiddle to them because they have the better history and have been a contender year in and year out, and we're sort of building into that still for the boys program,” McBride said. “But it's a mutual respect we both have.”

This season's boys team is anchored by an experienced defense. Nick Tost, Chase McIntyre and Jeff Berry entered the season as returning senior starters at defender, and McBride said senior John Smith is the first two-year starter at goalie the program has had in his seven years involved with coaching at Peters Township (the past four as head coach).

Tost and Berry share the team's captaincy with senior long-stick midfielder Joe Fairbanks and junior midfielder Andrew Rao.

“We're very senior-heavy on defense and have a lot of underclassmen on offense, so we expected to be relying on the experience on defense to bail us out of some games,” McBride said. “So far it's worked out really well.”

Peters Township's girls team entered the season, conversely, with defense as its most inexperienced unit after most of a stellar senior core at the position graduated last year.

Senior Izzy Dignazio is an exception, a player whom Bootman called “the leader of our defense.” Dignazio is a Philadelphia University recruit, and Bootman is one of three senior midfielders who are Division I lacrosse recruits.

Bootman (American University) joins Caitlin Carey (Duke) and Hannah Wilcox (Jacksonville University) to form a midfielders group unmatched in the WPIAL. Those three, along with junior attacker Allison Hurley, score the majority of the Indians' goals.

Peters Township's girls are averaging more than 15 goals per game — the boys are allowing just 5.1 per contest. No matter how they're doing it, both teams are winning. And both have WPIAL title aspirations.

“We have a big week coming up, so short-term is always our focus,” Bootman said. “But the goals for the season are always to win the WPIAL and go as far as we can in states.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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