SSA lacrosse reflects on championship season
When the season closed a few weeks ago with a loss to Mt. Lebanon in the PIAA Division I quarterfinals, first-year coach Michael Williams and his Shady Side Academy boys lacrosse team had reason to hold their heads high.
The Indians claimed their first-ever WPIAL crown May 23 with a 7-2 win over the Blue Devils and for some of the seniors, that win was the cherry on the sundae.
“Winning the WPIAL title was a great moment for the whole team, but especially for our seniors,” senior Dan Marous said. “They had beaten us for the WPIAL title when we were freshmen and claiming the championship this year is something I'll never forget.”
Marous will be heading to Notre Dame in the fall where he hopes to continue playing lacrosse.
Goalie Tucker Gillman is another senior who was proud to lay claim to the WPIAL title.
“It was a terrific moment for all of us. We want to be remembered as a team that never gives up. We gave a total effort all season long and picked each other up when we had to.”
After a year at a prep school in Connecticut, Gillman will attend Georgetown and plans to continue with lacrosse.
One of the reasons for the success this season was the wealth of experience on the squad. Williams had nine seniors at his disposal. Along with Marous and Gillman, Michael Concordia, Frank Benckart, Doug Boyle, Peter McDonagh, Matt O'Connor, Kyle Olander and Chris Zhang led the squad.
“We will miss the work ethic and leadership of all of the seniors,” Williams said. “They never let the team get down when we were behind. They understood what leadership is all about and they will be missed.
“This season's tone was set by our seniors and captains. They drove the ship on and off the field and were leaders for the underclassmen. We will miss this senior class, just like the ones that came before them. We would have not gotten to where we were this season without them.
“But with their hard work and sacrifice throughout the years, they have created a solid foundation in which Shady Side lacrosse can build from. They have created a culture at SSA that makes the players accountable for themselves and really understand the meaning of a team. This year's team accomplished great things on the field, but their best accomplishments were off the field with building a cohesive unit that relied on one another to achieve our goals.”
The offense next season will take a hit due to the loss of a stellar pair of scorers. Marous led the team with 63 goals and 32 assists. Concordia, who played attack and midfield, tallied 29 goals and picked up 26 assists in his final season for the Indians.
On the plus side, juniors Alec Bernstein and Robby Woodings will be back. Bernstein had 29 goals and six assists while Woodings scored 18 goals and had 15 assists. Sophomore Max Jaffe contributed 12 goals and 20 assists.
“The seniors established a solid program for the underclassmen,” Williams said. “Next year, we'll look for those underclassmen to take over the leadership reins. They know that it will take a lot of work. We managed to work hard, have fun and be successful this year. We're looking to repeat the process again next year.”
Marty Stewart is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-782-2123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.