Wins hard to find for Latrobe boys lacrosse
After seeing steady progress in his first three years as the Latrobe boys lacrosse coach, David Leksell searching for an explanation.
Latrobe improved from 1-12 in WPIAL Division II in 2011 to 7-8 and a playoff berth in 2013, but sits at 1-5 this year.
The Wildcats' only win came in the first game of the season, 4-3 against Winchester Thurston (1-5).
They've scored more than five goals just once after doing so 11 times last year.
“This season has me a bit befuddled, to tell you the truth,” Leksell said. “We've looked really good in practice playing 6-on-6, but for whatever reason, they tend to fall apart in the games.”
Although the offensive output has been lackluster thus far, a lot of that stems from the defensive side of the field.
Frustration from having the ball spend so much time in the defensive end has led to impatience when the offense gets the ball, even from captains Nick Halula and Anthony Guidera, Leksell said.
The defensive unit is inexperienced, with two freshmen in starting roles.
The young group has struggled to grasp and implement the man-to-man sliding scheme Leksell introduced this season.
“It's not complex in my mind, but when I think back to when I was in high school and learning a different system, it can be a bit confusing at times, especially for those first-year guys,” Leksell said. “I'm throwing a lot at them, and I guess I'm asking a lot of them to absorb and understand it all.”
The execution thus far has not been indicative of the talent level of the players in Leksell's arsenal, he said.
They showed their potential in a 7-5 loss to Division I opponent Fox Chapel (6-2) on April 7.
The hope is that switching to a zone defense for the rest of the season will help Latrobe compete like it did in that game by taking some pressure off the players, especially senior goalie Zack Spangler.
By crowding the middle of the field, the zone is designed to force opponents to settle for outside shots, something the Wildcats have failed to do so far.
“I sort of plead with (Spangler) to see that he doesn't get frustrated,” Leksell said, “because he's seeing some shots in front of the net that aren't fair to expect him to stop.”
After their frustrating start, both Leksell and the players realize their goal of making it back to the playoffs essentially is out of reach.
But letting frustration get the best of them isn't acceptable.
“I had a conversation with them that it doesn't matter what the score is or our position in the section,” Leksell said. “You play to the best of your ability and play hard.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.