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Franklin Regional lacrosse hopes for 1995 repeat

Aaron Loughner | For The Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional sophomore Nate Fleck defends during the Panthers' game against Pine-Richland on May 1, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:21 a.m.

Dave Alexander couldn't help but think back on his own high school lacrosse career at Franklin Regional when looking ahead to the Panthers' 2013 playoff opener.

During Alexander's 1995 junior season, the Panthers advanced to the Western Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association championship game, where they faced Mt. Lebanon in a rematch of a game from earlier that season.

Though the Blue Devils routed Franklin Regional during that regular season, the Panthers turned the tables with a 14-4 triumph to win the title. Franklin Regional repeated as champion the following season and won another title in 1999.

Now the Panthers' coach, Alexander was hoping for a repeat when Franklin Regional traveled to Mt. Lebanon for a WPIAL playoff opener on Wednesday. The game ended past the deadline for this week's edition.

The Blue Devils beat the Panthers, 14-3, earlier this season.

“The situation couldn't be more identical,” Alexander said.

Adding to the intrigue, Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Ermer played for the Blue Devils in 1995 when Franklin Regional beat them for the title.

“I'm sure he remembers that,” Alexander said.

The 1995 game brought some history to Wednesday's matchup, and Alexander said he planned to use it to motivate his team.

The coach said he also hopes the Panthers can put their loss to Mt. Lebanon earlier this season behind them. Alexander believes Franklin Regional is much improved since that game.

“They rattled off five goals in a row at the end of the first quarter (last time),” Alexander said. “I think it just took the air out of the players. They looked good the first five minutes of the game — we had ball possession, we were shooting (and we) just couldn't hit the net.

“I feel good about (the rematch). We've had a good week of practice, focusing on some things that we're going to implement during the game, and I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a real good game.”

Alexander said young players like sophomores Nate Fleck and Dom Giannangeli had improved since the first meeting with Mt. Lebanon this season.

The Panthers (8-8, 5-2) officially clinched a playoff spot last week, but Alexander said the team is looking to do more in the postseason after back-to-back first-round exits.

Franklin Regional lost to Mt. Lebanon, 11-5, in the first round last season. The Panthers' last title came in 1999, before the WPIAL sanctioned boys lacrosse.

“To make (playoffs), it feels good to accomplish that goal,” Alexander said. “But our larger sight is WPIAL championships.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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