By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/8/13
READING – No western Pennsylvania boys’ team has ever beaten an eastern team in a state tournament game, but today the West claimed at least a measure of respectability.
Zach Smith, a 2015 midfielder from North Allegheny, scored the winning goal to give the West a 4-3 victory over the East in the title game and a perfect 5-0 record in the Pride of Pennsylvania Showcase at Albright College.
The event featured three 25-player teams, one from the West, East and Central regions. Players were chosen from regional tryouts held earlier this year by the Brine National Lacrosse Classic. After today’s event, 25 players will be selected to represent Pennsylvania at the Brine NLC June 30-July 3 at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, Md.
Based on today’s performance, the West should get its fair share of players on the roster, which is chosen by a group of evaluators who only have numbers during tryouts. The Pride games are being held in many states in order to ensure that each region of those states gets fair representation for the final roster decisions. The PA roster will be named Monday.
In six years of PIAA-sanctioned play, no western team – most coming from the football power Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League – has defeated an eastern team in boys’ or girls’ lacrosse and few of the games have been close. Even some of the West players had doubts today when the event began, but soon the players began to believe.
“It actually felt pretty good,” said Mt. Lebanon 2015 attackman Brian Kelly, a Mercer commit who fared well today. “Coming in, when we were lined up, we heard someone say, ‘We can’t wait to play the West because they are going to be easy,’ and we come out winning all of them.
“That was cool, to come from the West side and compete with the other teams. This shows that the game is spreading and growing and that everyone is coming up and competing with each other.”
Smith also was pleased to see the West excel.
“It’s nice we got to come out the WPIAL and win,” he said. “We always come into the state tournament as the underdog. Last year, for North Allegheny we were in the semis against La Salle (eventual state champion). We didn’t play very well then, but this is a memento you can keep in the back of your minds that we did it.”
“Coming in, I didn’t think we’d do well against the East, knowing how tough they usually are and seeing some La Salle helmets we thought we’d get beat,” he said. “But this shows us what we can bring against other regions.”
Rullan enjoyed the exposure of the event.
“Obviously, I would love to go to Brine National, but just competing with the other top western players it shows where my talent is and where I need to improve,” he said.
Smith, also a state qualifier at 197 pounds on the wrestling mat this year, enjoyed competing on a large stage.
“Division I lacrosse is the dream; it has been,” he said. “Being a two-sport athlete with wrestling it’s nice because I don’t have as much time to give to lacrosse. Getting out here to show what I have is a great time and a great way to get in front of some college coaches.”
Kelly said it would be great to play alongside players from all the regions in PA at the Brine NLC.
“I was really looking forward to this event because it’s exciting to represent our region,” he said. “We wanted to show that the West could compete.
“On a personal level, I want to make it to Maryland. That would be a pretty cool opportunity to play for team Pennsylvania. Usually you think of eastern kids being on the team, but it would be cool to have Western kids there with kids that have been dominant throughout PA.”