By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/8/10
They’ve knocked heads against the best from the Philadelphia area for weeks, but today Conestoga and La Salle will face teams from out of the region in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) boys’ lacrosse semifinals.
Conestoga (22-2), the District 1 champion, will meet Manheim township of District 3 at 1 p.m. at Gov. Mifflin High in Shillington, Berks County. La Salle, (20-2), the District 12 champion and defending PIAA champion, will play Seneca Valley of District 7 at 6 p.m. at Memorial Field in State College.
The Pioneers, ranked No. 1 in the PA Media Rankings, are well aware that Manheim Township (22-4) took apart Garnet Valley, 11-4, in the first round of the playoffs and then handled District 7’s Franklin Regional, 17-9, in the quarterfinals.
Manheim Township is no stranger to playing District 1 teams deep in states. Two years ago Manheim Township gave La Salle a scare in the state finals, falling, 7-5. Last year the Blue Streaks held their own against eventual champ La Salle in a 10-3 loss.
This year Manheim Township defeated eventual Ches-Mont League co-champion Downingtown East, 8-7.
A team from the Central or Western regions had never defeated a team from the Philly region in the state playoffs until Manheim Township – ranked No. 4 in the PA media Rankings – toppled Garnet Valley. Clearly, the Blue Streaks cannot be taken lightly.
“We are definitely paying attention,” said Conestoga coach Brian Samson. “We do have film on them. They sound like an athletic team. That score against Garnet Valley woke our kids up.
“It’s good to play a different team and we are not looking past them.”
Manheim Township, coached by Rich Lefever, was the Lancaster-Lebanon League runner-up and District Three runner-up. All of their losses have been to Hempfield (three) and state semifinalist Seneca Valley.
The Blue Streaks are led by All-American senior defenseman Austin Schultz (signed with Bucknell) while junior Quint Miller (topped the L-L League in scoring), midfielders Mark Stratton and Rob Wertz and attackman Alex Bradbury are keys to the offense.
Also on defense are Ryan Ridinger and goalie Devin O’Grady. O’Grady hadn’t played lacrosse for five years before this season, but has been strong in the playoffs was standout against Garnet Valley.
The Pioneers have been nothing short of dominant in the past few weeks. Conestoga has outscored its foes, 78-28, in the playoffs and is on mission to return to the state finals where they fell to La Salle last year with a junior-laden team.
Conestoga coach Brian Samson said his team has played particularly well in its last three games – an 8-4 win over Springfield-Delco in the district finals and impressive wins over Hatbor-Horsham (17-2) and Emmaus (15-5) in states.
“Our last three games are the best we’ve played all year,” he said. “A lot of guys are contributing.”
Coinestoga features four players that earned All-American honors: senior face-off specialist Ryan Buttenbaum, senior midfielder Ryan Lord, senior defenseman Casey Ikeda (also an Under Armour All-American) and junior long stick midfielder Brian Dailey.
Those four along with senior attackman Matt Smith and senior goalie Peter Zonino earned All-Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association honors while senior midfielder, senior defenseman Austin Campbell and junior midfielder Tanner Scott also earned second-team all-Central League honors. What’s more, sophomore attackman Tyler Brooke has emerged in the late part of the season to be a major offensive threat along with fellow sophs Bradlee Lord and Connor Frisina.
La Salle (20-2), meanwhile, is looking to return to the state finals against a Seneca Valley (20-2) squad that was upset in the District 7 semifinals by Franklin Regional (10-9) and has responded with three straight playoff wins.
The Raiders defeated District 7 champion Sewickley Academy, 12-7, in the quarterfinals as senior co-captains Rob Fyock and Jake McAndrew (signed with Division II Mercyhurst) paced a balanced attack with three goals each.
Coached by Peter Hoffman, Seneca Valley also earned a 12-9 victory over District 3 champion Hempfield in the first round. In that game, the Raiders scored three goals in a span of 75 seconds late in the game to break a 9-9 tie.
La Salle is coming off a big 8-5 victory over Springfield-Delco in the quarterfinals as senior Christina Cardinal scored four goals. Winners of 11 straight games, the Explorers are led by two All-Americans, junior attackman Kevin Forster and senior midfielder Patrick Resch.
Forster and Resch were joined on the first-team All-Catholic League squad by senior attackman Dan Losier, junior midfielder Jack Bogorowski, senior midfielder Stephen Kelly, senior defenseman Shane Pierce, junior defenseman Mark DiFrangia and two junior goalies, John Lawlor and Victor Garcia. Lawlor has been getting the starts in the playoffs and had eight saves against Springfield-Delco.