Early-season losses serve as learning experience for Pine-Richland lacrosse
Pine-Richland has spent the year learning how to win.
The Rams (8-2) are ranked No. 5 in the WPIAL by laxpower.com with wins over No. 4 Upper St. Clair (8-1), No. 6 Shady Side Academy (5-3) and No. 10 Hampton (5-4).
But it was a pair of losses that started the learning process.
An 11-9 loss to No. 2 Peters Township in the first game of the season acted as a gauge for what first-year coach Rob Marasti had to work with.
“Losing that first game was definitely a blessing in disguise,” Marasti said. “We knew we had talent. We knew we had a good team, but that game showed us how many teams in the WPIAL would be good.”
Over its next three games, Pine-Richland managed close wins against Seneca Valley, Central Catholic and Butler, which have a combined record of 7-18.
It wasn't until a 15-3 loss to Manheim Township (10-1) — one of the top programs in the state — that Pine-Richland began to distinguish itself as one of the top teams in Western Pennsylvania.
“Sometimes losing isn't the worst thing in the world,” Marasti said. “We want to win them all, but when I took the job, the schedules were kind of set already. That was the one game where I wanted to make sure we got out of the area and played a team that was better than any Western Pennsylvania team.”
The final score wasn't indicative of how the team performed.
The Rams trailed 5-3 at halftime and easily could have taken the lead but hit the post four times, said junior midfielder Scott Wilden, who is committed to play at Division I Hofstra.
“It brought us to a different type of competition (that) we're not used to playing with,” Wilden said. “Seeing us play that well in the first half opened our eyes to how well we can actually play.”
Since that loss, Pine-Richland has won five straight — all against teams with a winning record — while showing off Marasti's deep offensive playbook.
The Rams have scored in double digits only twice out of the five games, but the scoring has been spread throughout the offense.
“There's not one player that's on the stat book. It's the entire team,” Wilden said. “Everyone on the offense has at least five points, and that's unheard of.”
In the 10-7 win over Hampton on Wednesday, the Talbots face-guarded Wilden, who leads Pine-Richland with 15 goals and 13 assists. The Rams responded with goals from four different attackmen in the first half.
Of the remaining six games, a matchup Wednesday against No. 7 Fox Chapel (6-2) and May 7 against No. 9 North Allegheny (4-4) should serve as the final tests before the postseason.
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.