New Franklin Regional boys lacrosse coach likes energy, direction of young squad
Mt. Lebanon native Frank Baverso started his lacrosse coaching career in Youngstown at Cardinal Mooney High School while still a student at Youngstown State.
“I started coaching young, and it was a good learning experience,” said Baverso, who was named the new varsity boys coach at Franklin Regional a little more than a month before the start of preseason practices March 7.
Baverso's recent coaching resume includes the club team at Kent State and Mt. Union's NCAA Division III program.
He also served two seasons as an assistant to the public relations director for the Ohio Machine, a Major League Lacrosse franchise in Columbus, Ohio.
Baverso returned to the area last year and started coaching in a Pittsburgh-based youth lacrosse program.
At the same time, he started to think about returning to the high school ranks. When Franklin Regional began looking for a replacement for former coach Dave Alexander, Baverso stepped up.
“We connected through a middle party,” Baverso said.
“The stars aligned. It seems like a perfect fit from both sides. Everyone I talked to about Franklin Regional said it is a great program with great kids. It's a program that matches my personality and coaching style. It's great to be back in the area.”
Baverso said the Panthers have worked hard and are determined to turn around last year's 5-11 overall record and possibly challenge for a playoff spot in Section 2 of Division I.
FR tied with Seneca Valley for fifth in the section last year at 2-4, one game behind Fox Chapel for the fourth and final WPIAL playoff spot.
“The guys were enthusiastic right from the start,” Baverso said. “They are hungry to win.”
Baverso said the team was not a finished product as the season began. The Panthers found it tough sledding Monday in a 14-1 season-opening loss to WPIAL power Upper St. Clair.
Two graduates — Cole Seymour and Justin Naugle — combined for 55 of the teams 102 goals last year.
Senior Alex Paterson's 16 goals in 2015 were the most among the returning players.
“Alex is a grown man from a mental standpoint,” Baverso said.
“He's super smart and extremely coachable. He does the little things in practice to get better. I don't think he puts a ton of pressure on himself. He will score goals, but he also makes others better. He should also be a high-assist guy.”
Senior Sam Harper also returns after scoring seven goals and providing four assists last season.
“Sam is just a strong offensive player,” Baverso said. “He and Paterson really make it work for the offense.”
Baverso said junior Logan Miller, an offensive lineman in football and a heavyweight wrestler, is a physical player who should have a breakout season on the attack.
Fellow junior Nick Hodowanec, the team's faceoff leader last year with 114 wins, is in the process of coming back from a motorcycle accident.
Baverso said he hopes Hodowanec can be cleared to return by midseason.
Junior goalie Nate Seymour, Baverso said, should be a top-three goalie in the WPIAL.
“It was great experience for Nate to see shots as a tenth grader,” Baverso said.
“Hopefully, our defense can be strong in front of him. We have confidence in him that he can make a save. He will be a very important part of the team this season.”
Baverso noted the athleticism of a trio of seniors who never picked up a stick before but have seen success as members of the FR boys soccer team — Ian Hatfield, Michael Shulock and Nate Beauregard.
“All of them are super aggressive and display great body position,” Baverso said. “They can lay the lumber.”
Only six seniors are on the current roster, and there are a combined 26 sophomores and freshman.
“I like what we've seen from the freshmen,” Baverso said. “I think a lot of them are going to get playing time and experience.”
Baverso said the young team is not shying away from a challenging schedule overall.
The Panthers were to host section rival Fox Chapel on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., past the deadline for this week's edition.
A nonsection home game against Bethel Park is slated for Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.