Franklin Regional's Stephens named boys lacrosse All-American
Because lacrosse defensemen generally don't pick up statistics the way attackers, midfielders or goalkeepers do, it can be harder sometimes to see their impact on the game.
But Franklin Regional's Luke Stephens' play during the 2013 season broke the normal rules for defenders.
Stephens, a senior, was named one of the WPIAL's seven boys lacrosse All-Americans for his performance during the 2013 season.
“It feels really good to be nominated and elected as an All-American,” Stephens said. “It shows that all of the work I've put in over the years really paid off, and other coaches and people have noticed that I've tried to excel at the sport.”
Franklin Regional coach Dave Alexander, who nominated Stephens for the All-American honor, said Stephens' impact showed in the team's ground ball statistics.
A player is awarded a ground ball if he or she intercepts a pass or scoops the ball off the ground with an opposing player within 5 yards of the loose ball. Franklin Regional recorded about 500 ground ball pickups as a team during the 2013 season, and Stephens accounted for 135 of them.
“Usually, a player might have 30 ground ball pickups a year — maybe 40, maybe 50,” Alexander said. “Luke had 135 ground balls, which shows his intensity.
“That's a ridiculous stat. That just shows his intensity and his hunger to want to get that ball. When that ball's on the ground, as a coach when I saw Luke going for it, I'm just glad he's on my team and not the other team.”
Alexander said he frequently matched Stephens against the opposing team's best player, a role Stephens excelled in.
“Personally, I love it,” Stephens said. “I love having to play against the top players of other teams, and then looking at the stat sheet knowing you impacted the game by preventing that person from having an impact on the game.”
The defensive play of Stephens and his teammates helped propel Franklin Regional into the postseason. The Panthers lost in the first round of the WPIAL Division I playoffs to Mt. Lebanon.
“We really relied on our defense in the beginning of the year to keep us in games (and) help us win games,” said Stephens, who will play lacrosse next season at Division III Elizabethtown. “We could do that because we had such a strong team defense to rely on. Our defense actually created offense through turnovers, fast-break situations and odd-man situations in transition.”
In addition to Stephens, who was also named as an all-section and all-WPIAL player, two other Franklin Regional boys lacrosse players were honored by the Pittsburgh Lacrosse Foundation for their play this year. Senior Tanner Roberts and junior Devin Arrigo were both named to the all-section teams.
Alexander said he moved Roberts — traditionally a midfielder — to attacker before the season started.
“Switching someone his last year, with (him) not being too familiar with the special dodges you need to know in an in-close setting, as opposed to a (midfielder) who has a little bit different dodges and a little bit more time and space (is difficult),” Alexander said. “(Roberts) really took to it and performed exceptionally this year.
“(Arrigo) has the size, the speed (and) the lacrosse IQ. Next year it's just going to be a pure pleasure to watch him play.”
In addition to the boys lacrosse players honored, junior Hannah Bertolo from the Franklin Regional girls lacrosse team was named all-section for Division 1 lacrosse.
Murrysville-area residents Nick Benjamin and Brady Wargofchik, who both play lacrosse at Greensburg Central Catholic, were named all-section for Division 2 lacrosse.
Franklin Regional middle schoolers Jeremy Boyd, Nick Fausto, Haroon Nelson and Jack Painter won “spirit of the game” awards for boys lacrosse, while Angie Giannangeli, Josie Seymour and Addie Smiach won “spirit of the game” awards on the girls side.