Wild ride predicted for lacrosse champions
Skill more than momentum to determine Lebo’s lacrosse fate
Think Mt. Lebanon’s last-second win against Upper St. Clair, 10-9, for the Section 1 title proved dramatic? Well wait until the Blue Devils begin defense of their WPIAL Division I lacrosse title.
Lebo hosts Fox Chapel while USC welcomes Pine Richland. Shady Side Academy entertains Peters Township, a 13-11 winner against Bethel Park in a play-in game. All first-round playoff matches start at 7 p.m. May 14.
“It’s going to be a wild ride,” predicted Lebo head coach Mike Ermer of the playoffs.
Lebo’s regular season finale proved his point. Shortly after David Rice tied the match, 9-9, Sam White, off an assist from Brian Kelly, scored the game-winning goal with 22 seconds to play to clinch the victory for the Blue Devils.
The match was tied five times and Lebo held the largest lead, 7-4.
“It does seem that games between many of the teams with the best records in the WPIAL are being decided by one or two goals,” agreed USC skipper Brian Yates.
“Mike [Ermer] and his team are to be congratulated on their win. Players like Kelly, Tim Donoghue and Brian Ward played with skill and good lacrosse acumen.
Because Lebo won the WPIAL championship last year, Yates added, the Panthers, thought coming into the season, the Blue Devils were the team to beat. They are seeded No. 1 in the tournament followed by Shady Side. USC is seeded third and North Allegheny, fourth.
The loss to Lebo, Yates admitted, affected USC’s seeding. However, he added, “we also think it will make us better.”
Meanwhile, Ermer felt the momentum Lebo gained from the victory would only carry the Blue Devils so far. “My faith is in fundamentals,” he said.
Fundamentals carried the Blue Devils to the forefront. They answered USC’s every move. While Kelly and Brian Ward chipped in two goals each and Dan Lee and Lou Lucerne supplied one score each, White exploded for four tallies, including the decisive one.
“Sam’s a big-time player. He scores big-time goals. He’s fun to be around and coach,” added Ermer.
Kyle Page is inspirational to be around and amazing to watch as he plays without an ACL in his right knee. The Panthers’ senior attack man tore the ligament in the fifth game of the season.
Page pulled USC to within, 7-6, at the start of the final frame. He leads USC in assists.
“Kyle is a special young man and it’s inspirational to see someone his age out on the field, giving everything he has both physically and mentally, to help his team,” said Yates.
Tom Fitch, Mac Madson and David Rice helped the Panthers, too. Each scored twice against Lebo. Fitch and Rice had the equalizers to tie the match at seven and at nine. Trevor Morrow and Braeden Kaib also scored goals for USC.
“Our coaching staff was proud of the effort given by our players,” said Yates.
Ermer, meanwhile, was proudest of Lebo’s achievement as section champions.
“The only goal we set at the beginning of the season is winning the section. Not the Midwest League. Not the WPIAL,” Ermer said. “Winning the section was a tall order.
“We don’t want to get too far out in front of ourselves. First and foremost was the section.”
In reaching the WPIAL playoffs, the Blue Devils faced many bumps in the road. “We faced a lot of ups and downs to get here,” said Ermer of Lebo’s playoff berth.
“The season so far has been topsy-turvy,” he continued. “There’s plenty of parity in this league. That’s good for Pittsburgh lacrosse.”
Being the defending WPIAL champions isn’t a bad thing for the Blue Devils. Just representing Mt. Lebanon is.
“Being the defending champion is not the case. We have a target on our backs. Unfortunately, we struggle with being Mt. Lebanon lacrosse. People want to beat us. Not because we are defending champions but because we wear the blue and gold, because of the name on our jerseys.”
The WPIAL playoffs continue with semifinal action set for May 19 at times and sites to be determined. The district championships will be played May 23 at Highmark Stadium. The Division I finals start at 8 p.m. The Division II championships are scheduled for 6 p.m.
Canon-McMillan qualified for the Division II playoffs. The Big Macs (4-1) finished runner-up to Moon (5-0) in Section 2.
The Big Macs will play at Mars at 7 p.m. May 15 in the first round of the playoffs.
In overtime, Chartiers Valley defeated Gateway, 9-8, for the right to face top-seeded Quaker Valley of the playoffs. The Quakers will host the quarterfinal match-up at 7:30 p.m. May 15.
For the Colts, who improved to 9-7 overall, Pat Shaak scored the gamewinner with 2:10 left in overtime. Cian Malcolm and Nate Collins both tallied two goals to help CV’s cause.
Highmark Stadium serves as the site for the WPIAL girls’ lacrosse championships on May 22. Division II finals start at 6 p.m. followed by the Division I title tilt at 8.
In Division I, Mt. Lebanon hosts North Allegheny at 7 p.m. May 16 while Peters Township entertains Pine-Richland. On May 15, Seton-La Salle visits Quaker Valley at 6 p.m.
In Division II, Chartiers Valley hosts the winner of the Ellis-Butler match at 7 p.m. May 15.
Semifinal action in both divisions will be held May 20 at sites and times to be determined.
Playoff tickets are $7 for adults and $5 per student. The cost for the championship contests are $10 per adult and $5 per student.