Latrobe's historic boys lacrosse season comes to close
Despite falling to No. 1 seeded Seton-La Salle in the WPIAL Division II boys lacrosse playoffs last week, it was a monumental season for the Latrobe Wildcats.
Not only did the program advance to the playoffs for the first time in its history, but it also won a postseason game as well, defeating Winchester Thurston, 11-4.
“We had set a goal at the beginning of the year that we were going to make the playoffs this year,” coach David Leksell said.
“The first two years I was here we won one game each year and then last year we had a better season. And this year we said we should make the playoffs if we're going to continue our progression of being better,” the fourth-year coach added.
Ending the season at 7-8 (3-2 in WPIAL Division II, Section 1), the Wildcats finished in third place in their division and made the playoffs. That playoff berth came in large part due to Latrobe's key, late-season 9-6 win over section foe Norwin.
“The guys picked it up throughout the year, and they really stepped up for the games that we had to win, like against Norwin, that was a must-win for us,” Leksell said. “So the guys responded well for us.”
Senior Jacob Artuso played a big role in Latrobe's success this season, leading the team in goals (40) and assists (23), while senior Bryce Kramer was a stalwart for the Wildcats defense.
But Latrobe also received strong play from junior goalie Zack Spangler, a converted midfielder who assumed the starting goalie duties this year when the position opened up.
“We wouldn't have won a lot of games without him there. …We just needed somebody to step up in that position and he volunteered, and I could not be happier with how that turned out,” Leksell said.
Leksell told his team that making the playoffs was going to be a difficult task, but he cited their work ethic and determination as key reasons for the Wildcats' drastic improvement in 2013.
“The willingness for the guys to work harder at practice and just the commitment for them at the beginning of the year to want to make the playoffs (made the difference),” Leksell said.
“I think it's a great stepping stone. I told the guys it's now a standard.”
Not only did the Latrobe boys lacrosse team have a historic season, but the girls program did as well, winning its first section title in school history.
For Leksell, he believes that the growth of Latrobe lacrosse is just evidence of the bigger picture of the sport in this part of the state.
“Latrobe's just a microcosm of what's really going on in Western Pa.,” he said. “It's great what's going on all over Western Pennsylvania. It's becoming a real hot bed for lacrosse and, like I said, our little school is just another school on the way up.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.