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Seton-La Salle boys' lacrosse team sets sights on WPIAL championship

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By Jennifer Goga
Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Seton-La Salle's boys' lacrosse team set a lofty goal at the start of the 2013 season.

“The team decided they wanted to win the WPIAL championship this year. It was a goal the team set for themselves,” said first-year head coach Brian Yates.

With just a few games left on the schedule, that goal is within reach for the Rebels, who are undefeated and ranked fifth in Division II on the LaxPower website.

The Rebels are in first place in WPIAL Division II, Section 2. They are 9-0 overall, 3-0 in section play, and won decisively against second-place Baldwin.

Seton also has beaten ranked contenders Quaker Valley and Canon-McMillan in Division II action. The Rebels are loaded with talented players who are committed to the team and focused on winning.

Last year, the Rebels went 9-6 and lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Yates, 40, of Upper St. Clair, did not know what to expect when he took over as head coach this year. He played lacrosse at the University of Maryland, and coached with Pittsburgh Select Lacrosse.

“I was told it was a responsible, unselfish group of young men,” Yates said.

He has not been disappointed. Yates has been impressed by the Rebels' defense.

“They're playing like a unit,” Yates said.

Junior Liam McLane leads the Seton-La Salle defensive corps.

“He's a phenomenal young man with great leadership qualities,” Yates said.

Also on defense end is junior Mike Kalnas, who has been known to recruit players to do additional sprint training on their own after practice.

“He is a true renaissance man,” Yates said. “He had a leading role in the school musical this year and the whole team went to see him in it.”

Sophomore Jacob Blahut is a central member of the defense as well. Along with most of his teammates, Blahut started playing lacrosse in high school, as Seton-La Salle does not benefit from a youth feeder program.

“He is just a terrific athlete. He is on his way to being a shutdown defender,” Yates said. “He's a very physical defenseman.”

Gino DiPerna, a junior, plays long-stick midfielder. Yates discovered his dedication when a spring snowfall threatened to move practice indoors. DiPerna showed up with four snow shovels, and led a shoveling effort that allowed the team to practice outdoors that day.

“He's a neat young man who gives tremendous effort for us,” Yates said.

Junior midfielder Noah Kaib has great acceleration, and is a key part of the Rebels' transition game between defense and offense, according to Yates.

“He could be a future college player,” Yates said.

Anthony Shoplik, a junior midfielder, is a well-rounded player whose stats reflect his knack for scoring, and assists.

For faceoffs, the Rebels rely mainly on sophomore Dom Tolomeo. On attack, Seton has senior Matt McGervey, junior Colin Bashaw and sophomore Conor Quinlan, the team's leading scorer (32 goals).

Midfielders Brendan Donavan, a senior, and Mike Pritchard, a junior, contribute as well.

Junior goalkeeper Kevin Hudson moved in front of the net last year due to a hip condition, and earned all-section honors.

“He is a great leader, and is passionate about this sport,” Yates said.

Yates is careful not to make any predictions about his team's chances in the playoffs at this point in the season.

“We take it one game at a time, and we expect them all to be tough,” he said. “That's always our mentality.”

Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.

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