Top-seeded Mt. Lebanon to face challengers in boys lacrosse playoffs
The Mt. Lebanon boys lacrosse team began the regular season with an abundance of questions about who would replace some rather significant players who had graduated.
The Blue Devils ended it as the team judged best in the WPIAL.
Mt. Lebanon is 13-4 and lost to just one WPIAL opponent all season. That earned the Blue Devils the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL Division I lacrosse tournament that begins Wednesday.
“Every year, it's a process with a new team without whoever we graduated from the year before, and we've got new guys coming in to fill in the voids,” coach Mike Ermer said. “You pretty much start from scratch, and I'm very pleased with the way some of our guys stepped up.”
Among the eight seniors on last season's team were at least five who played very prominent roles. Pat Donnelly and Dylan White were named All-Americans.
One such honoree returned this season — senior attack Doran Graham has 50 goals and 15 assists. Graham is a four-year starter who has committed to play at Division I Jacksonville University.
“He's a very talented and athletic kid who has a lot of experience,” Ermer said. “There's a lot of trust in him, he makes the right looks and makes the right calls and kind of manages the team and quarterbacks the offense.”
Sophomore attacks Brian Kelly (24 goals, 30 assists) and Sam White (23 goals) and senior midfielders Tim McNichol (22 goals) and Chris O'Dell (19 goals) give Mt. Lebanon a well-rounded offense. Senior Will Nabors is solid in goal, while seniors Blake Woodyard and Clay Wyda anchor the defense.
The only WPIAL team to defeat the Blue Devils this season was No. 3 seed Shady Side Academy (10-5), which also beat Mt. Lebanon in the WPIAL semifinals last season. No. 2 seed North Allegheny (9-6) won Section 2, beating out defending champion Seneca Valley, which did not qualify for the playoffs. Mt. Lebanon was the only team to defeat No. 4 Peters Township (14-1) through the Indians' first 15 games.
“Going into this tournament, I honestly think it's pretty much wide open,” Ermer said. “Any of the eight teams that made it can win this tournament.”
Seton builds to WPIAL favorite
Matt McGervey and Robert Lomire were there from the beginning for Seton-La Salle. They were on a winless team as freshmen during the Rebels' first season as a WPIAL boys lacrosse program in 2010.
Now, they have a chance to go out on a team that wins a WPIAL championship.
McGervey, an attack, and Lomire, a midfielder, are among the leaders for a Seton-La Salle team that enters the WPIAL Division II tournament as the No. 1 seed. Quarterfinal games begin 7 p.m. Thursday.
Seton-La Salle went 5-10 in its second season in the WPIAL in 2011 then made the playoffs last year. Before this season, after Brian Yates took over as coach, junior defender Liam McLane gathered the team during an optional practice.
“He said, ‘Guys, I want you to look around this gym. What don't you see?' ” Yates recalled. “He let everyone know there were no lacrosse banners and we'd be getting one this year.
“He got the guys passionate about that — and then helped see it through. We won the section so we're getting a banner in the gym.”
The Rebels (12-1) are out for a WPIAL title banner against a field that also includes No. 2 seed Greensburg Central Catholic (6-6), No. 3 Quaker Valley (11-3) and No. 4 Mars (7-6).
Whoever wins will be a first-time champion — Hampton has won three of the four WPIAL Division II boys lacrosse championships and Butler (2010) the other. Both moved into Division I this season.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.