Young Mt. Lebanon lacrosse teams fall in PIAA semifinals
MECHANICSBURG — Sophomore Brian Kelly insisted the Mt. Lebanon boys lacrosse team had fun.
The message, strange as it may sound given the circumstances, was echoed by freshman midfielder Brian Ward.
So, what exactly is odd here?
The Blue Devils didn't win the game. They suffered a 15-10 loss to Penncrest on Tuesday in the PIAA Division I semifinals at Cumberland Valley.
But with a young, talented roster, playing a Philadelphia-area school close and making a late charge gave Mt. Lebanon plenty of hope for the future.
“We played a stress-free game,” Kelly said. “We played like there wasn't any pressure on us. We wanted to have fun. I guess that's our how we came back and didn't really let up at the end.”
Penncrest (24-1) advanced to Saturday's PIAA final at Hersheypark Stadium against District 1 champion Avon Grove.
Mt. Lebanon (14-10) ended its season a game shy of every team's ultimate goal — a place no WPIAL team has been since the PIAA took over the sport in 2009.
“We were a very young team this year,” Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Ermer said.
“Very inexperienced. We didn't have any fourth-year letter winners. We had one three-year letter winner. We had some good seniors who were great leaders. They were anchors. But the majority of guys who made us tick were sophomores and juniors. That bodes very well moving into the future.”
Kelly and Ward tallied three goals apiece. Junior Louis Lucerne scored twice. Sophomore Sam White added a goal and an assist.
“Our whole team is young,” Ward said. “The next two or three years, we're going to be a real tough team to beat.”
Penncrest got six points apiece from Will Manganiello, Drew Hanna and Alex Bonnett. Manganiello scored a game-high five goals.
Down 15-5 midway through the fourth, Mt. Lebanon ended the game with five unanswered goals by Lucerne, White, Kelly (two) and junior Brendan White.
What a blueprint
With only six seniors and three starters graduating, the Mt. Lebanon girls lacrosse team similarly hopes the two PIAA Division I victories it earned this season — the first and second in program history — are the start of something big.
If the Blue Devils do become the first WPIAL team to advance to the state finals next season, some of the credit will likely have to go to the blueprint they saw in the state semifinals Tuesday at Cumberland Valley.
All nine of Garnet Valley's seniors are playing college lacrosse next season, and it looked every bit that way during the Jaguars' 20-7 win.
James Madison recruit Haley Warden led the way with seven goals. Vanderbilt-bound Emily Mathewson finished with four, and Kara Nakrasius, headed for Temple, scored three times. Erica Coyne, who will play next season at Mercer, had a team-high six points, including two goals.
“I knew they'd be good, and they were good,” Mt. Lebanon coach Brian Kattan said.
Senior Alyssa Battaglia and junior Allena Holzworth recorded hat tricks for Mt. Lebanon, which went 22-1 and won its fourth WPIAL title.
Garnet Valley (24-2) will play District 1 champ Springfield Delco in the PIAA championship game Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
What was the scariest thing to come out of Tuesday?
Garnet Valley, which had leads of 10-2 and 19-4, wasn't at its best, according to coach Jenny Purvis.
“I would not say you saw one of our best performances,” Purvis said, later adding, “I'm happy where we're at right now, but we're a team that I think can play anybody and have a good chance against them.”
Mt. Lebanon wouldn't argue. Neither would anyone who watched the high-powered Jaguars.
The Blue Devils hope to one day emulate the Delaware County school from the southeastern part of the state, one that owns a pair of PIAA titles from 2011 and '12.
“They're a very good team, and they should do very well next game,” Kattan said.
“It's not bad when you lose to a very good team.
“We hope to be back here again.”