Twitter has spoken. A new champ should be crowned in 2017.
The D1 world is going to look very different in 2017. The well documented realignment has increased the size of the class and shifted the playoff format. (Take a look at what the 2017 playoff format would have done to the 2016 season here.)
With that in mind, we once again reached out to Twitter to learn who everyone likes for the title this spring. (The WPIAL Finals are likely to be played at Robert Morris this year instead of Highmark. Sad!)
The Blue Devils streak of winning every other year continued in 2016. Will they bounce back in 2017 to honor the trend? Brian Ward (Yale) and Dan Lee (Ithaca) have moved on but, Connor Brumfield (Ithaca) and Pat McAnally (Swarthmore) return along with key contributors Nathan Bashaw ’17, Jesse Dodd ’17, and Tim McMullen ’18. If Princeton football commit David Harvey polishes his game a bit, Lebo will have another piece to help replace the Ward/Lee points that graduated. Not many Pittsburgh lacrosse teams have 1400 yard 20 touchdown running backs on their roster. Assuming he’s playing this spring. (Google search single sport versus multi sport athletes and fall down a rabbit hole.)
Really looking forward to seeing Sam Rothschild again after a bit of a break out fall ball run. Safe to wager a lot of Mt. Lebanon middies were waiting for Brian Ward to graduate. Who knows who else will get a chance to produce this spring.
Providence commit Nick Tommasi is in Rhode Island right now leaving the aforementioned McAnally to patrol the back line. Add size and a nasty disposition to being left handed and you have a turn over causing machine.
Juniros Trevor Tocchet, Evan Rambo, and Mark Pesacreta will be household names, in coaching houses that is, by the end of the spring if they aren’t already. Really high on Pesacreta. Mean spirited pole who has made some headway in the weight room adding 10lbs, assuming his highlight tapes aren’t inflating stats.
What’s life like without Brian Ward?
Who is in between the pipes? Judging by the helmets, freshmen were in net during Lebo fall ball competition. Senior Matt Kelly back in net after an injury plagued 2016?
The Wexford boys opened the season with an 18-5 loss to Mt. Lebanon. How did they defeat Mt. Lebanon 9-7 in the finals? Defense and specialists.
Following a 12-9 loss to Kiski on April 26th, North Allegheny’s defense clamped down hard allowing only 14 goals in three playoff games and didn’t surrender more than 10 goals again until their state playoff loss to Manheim Township. Excellent play from speciality positions Alec Vissotski (face off) and Ean Kuska (goalie) carried the way in the postseason. The 9-7 WPIAL title score wasn’t as close as it sounds. North Allegheny had a 7-3 lead at half.
Vissotski and Kuska both return along with shut down defender Jack Kairys. The spine for the Tigers is exceedingly strong and may be the best in Pittsburgh. (We consider the team’s spine to be the face off man, long stick middie, and goalie, although NA typically uses Kairys on the opposition’s best player regardless of position.)
The Tigers play a myriad of key games at home this year. Nothing like a high school team not having to get off a bus on for an important midweek game. (See a schedule of marquee match ups below.) Perhaps a bigger advantage for the Tigers, their senior class has now participated in back to back WPIAL finals. Knowing how to get there and what to expect when you arrive is a card very few programs can play.
Sophomore Ben Maenza (above) could play a bigger part in the offense this spring with defenses keying on seniors Dillon Dugan and Gavin Hagen and junior Wes Powell.
The offense only averaged 7.25 goals over their last 8 games of the season including games with 3, 4, and 5 goals. The bulk of the 2016 offense returns so how much better could they be in 2017?
Did the defense just get hot at the right time or can we expect a shutdown unit from March to May?
Everyone seemed to like this option. Let’s first consider the other two schools that made the semifinals.
Success for the Rams will once again begin at the face off with Detroit Mercy commit Jake Freedlander. Have your face off strategies ready for this game.
Having Freedlander at the face off X will help the Rams get more possessions to an offense that must replace ball handling attackman Adam Reimer, who is now getting regular time at Seton Hill, Zack Novelli, currently on the roster at St. Vinent, and Chris Rust who deposited 30 plus goals last year.
Thomas Hanulak is among the best middies in Pittsburgh. The Seton Hill commit is a handful at 6’2″ 185, may even be bigger, but certainly has the protypical high tier college middie body. The first time we saw him shoot in person was a Brent Musberger “Whoa” moment. Unfortunately that goal against Peters Township was not on his spring highlight tape.
Look for sophomore Ben Barnes to pick up where he left off after a 28 goal 8 assist freshman campaign working largely on the crease. The Springer Brothers and Dawson Goltz provide additional scoring threats.
Alex Hein returns to the net for the third year in a row. Junior defenders Mike Steliotes and Tyler Goncz are also back after starting as sophomores.
Like Lebo, the Indians were hit very hard by graduation. Max Jaffee (Ohio Wesleyan), Peyton Lane (Amherst), Blake Goodman (Richmond), and Doc Szlachetka (Air Force) have all moved on. Doc, of course, did not play last spring due to a knee injury and Shady Side still had an elite defense. Henry Mihm was a more than serviceable back up at the LSM spot. Super pest. One of those guys you hated but would have loved if he was on your team. His pre faceoff whistle antics drew a key penalty in the semifinal game. He also graduated. Who is left?
Sophomore Ronan O’Connor, a 6’3″ 200lb defender, will be charged with holding down the back line. Chris Williams (Washington & Lee) gives the Indians a dominant face off presence. Opposing teams will have to account for Clayton Krol (High Point) at all times. He nearly singlehandedly won the semifinal game for SSA against North Allegheny thanks to clever two man games at X that freed Krol from the Kairys match up. One of two goals scored by Krol in the 4-3 loss to NA below. Kairys is the como slide after switching the on ball responsibility.
Shady Side’s JV roster was understandably weak, but as one LaxPower forum member suggested, someone new is likely to show up that we never knew about it. Consider Mars transfer freshman Jack Rice who could provide a point a game to help alleviate some pressure from Krol.
Due to conference realignment and needing two game days for the event formerly known as “The MSLAs,” Shady Side will not play Pine Richland or Seneca Valley in the regular season.
Peters Township very well may have the best 2018 class in all of Pittsburgh. Many of those sophomores were starters in 2016. Almost all of them will be starters in 2017. So if they aren’t in the title hunt in 2017…
- 3/24 Pine Richland at Peters
- 3/24 Mt. Lebanon at North Allegheny
- 4/4 Pine Richland at North Allegheny
- 4/14 Shady Side at North Allegheny
- 4/18 Peters at Mt. Lebanon
- 4/28 Shady Side at Mt. Lebanon
Take a look at the D2/AA poll and preview we posted in February here.
(Without doubt, the only difference from a skill set difference between Pittsburgh 2017 and Pittsburgh 1999 is at the face off X. Not sure if that’s a great thing or horrible thing. A post for another time.)