Three story lines to watch and the preseason top 5 in AAA.
What is Next for Peters?
After pulling off the rare back to back WPIAL titles, Peters graduated their vaunted 2018 class. They will be tasked with replacing starters all over the field including Danny Bacchiochi (Wheeling Jesuit), Colton Abate (Wheeling Jesuit), Shawn Caven (Wheeling Jesuit), Jake Hurley (Lindenwood), and Nicki Phelps (RPI).
You could ask the same about Bethel Park. They had 9 college commits graduate.
Mars Will Lose an AA Game, Right?
The Planets graduated a stellar class, but they have a 2019 group that has played a ton of minutes. Their closest game against a AA opponent last year was a 10-5 regular season win over Hampton. They would go on to beat Hampton 17-4 in the WPIAL finals. By the way, Hampton had more significant graduation losses than Mars.
New Alignment Again
Franklin Regional, Plum, and Sewickley drop down to AA while Allderdice strangely remains in AAA. Realignment has condensed both AA and AAA to two sections with the top six teams in each section making the post season.
Several years ago when the sport became state sponsored, we recall a current coach saying, "Everyone wanted state sponsorship, but now you have people that don't know about lacrosse making decisions that impact lacrosse." A third realignment in three years speaks a bit to this sentiment.
Projected 2019 Top 5 Teams
1. North Allegheny
2018 Record: 13-9
The Tigers return the bulk of their contributors from their WPIAL runner up squad. Seniors Ben Maenza and Matt Osten have been staples since freshman year. Both earned all section last year. The returns led by All Section senior Antonio O'Barto and juniors Mitch Arnold and Zach Chick. Junior attackman Isaiah Davis was limited this season due to injury but returned in time to be an impact player in the playoffs. Fellow left junior Nick Kairys could be a nice compliment.
2018 Record: 19-4
The Rams seemed destined to capture the 2018 title and then they couldn't solve the aforementioned NA defense. Seniors Ben Barnes and Will Harnick have been offensive contributors since freshman year. Seniors Reis Ravotti, Brendan Hein, and Jared Slack anchor the defense. Detroit Mercy commit Jake Freedlander is gone but Lance Bruno (2021) and Carter Hatzimbes (2020) won't be push overs at the face off.
3. Mt. Lebanon
2018 Record: 12-10
After a 2-7 start, the Devils finished 2018 on a 10-3 run including wins over Shady Side, North Allegheny, and Upper St. Clair. All WPIAL Goalie Tucker Welch (2020) may be asked to hold down the fort a bit as the defense gets settled in front of him after graduated losses. The offense should be more potent after another year of seasoning. Keep an eye on juniors Carter Davidson, Blake Nelson, and John Sramac, an all section winner in 2018.
4. Fox Chapel
2018 Record: 13-5
The Foxes have one of the deepest senior classes in the WPIAL led by Hofstra commit Graham Childs, all section attackman Reed Seybolt, all section attackman Zack Yonas, all section middie Brad Root, and all section defender Keyon Weis. Two of their 2018 losses came against Peters Township.
5. Shady Side
2018 Record: 10-6
Twins Colm and Ronan O'Connor return for their senior year. Both were all section. The 2020 class is very talented (George Grune, Thomas Muse, Trent Lane, Jack Naughton, Eric Evensen, all section goalie Michael DiMarsico). Shady Side managed 5.6 goals a game in their 6 losses, but should score more in 2019 thanks to returning young core.
Photo: Jake Mysliwczyk