By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/1/14
Willa Manganiello admits that his Penncrest lacrosse team profited from a District 1 quarterfinal loss to Springfield-Delco two weeks ago.
“It was a tough loss against Springfield and it hurt, but I felt we needed that loss,” said the All-American attackman. “I think we were getting cocky, but since then we have come out firing and we knew we did not want to feel that way again.”
The Lions (23-1) have won four straight do-or-be-eliminated playoff games since, the latest being Saturday’s 6-5 triumph over La Salle at Harriton in the PIAA quarterfinals.
The win advances Penncrest into Wednesday’s semifinals against District 7 runner-up Mt. Lebanon at Cumberland Valley at 6 p.m. Mt. Lebanon (14-9) defeated District 7 rival Shady Side Academy, 7-6.
The Lions had to rally against the defending champion Explorers (15-8), who took a 4-3 lead on a goal by Aidan Kerrigan with 1:48 to play in the third period.
Until then, La Salle’s slow-it-down, defensive-oriented style had kept the Lions frustrated. But Manganiello (three goals) tied it with 10:29 to play and put his team ahead 1:23 later. Ethan Trusty then bounced one past La Salle goalie Colin MacDougall (nine saves) to make it 6-4 a minute later.
“We knew they were going to hold us to a low scoring game but we knew if we kept fighting back we’d do well,” said Manganiello. “It (their offense) was kind of stagnant in the beginning; we didn’t score until the second quarter, but once we started scoring and feeling the momentum we knew we’d get (the offense) back.”
Penncrest coach Wayne Matsinger said his team prepared well for the La Salle tempo, but shot poorly until the last period. Defensively, he credited his defensive middies for helping shut down the balanced Explorers attack. Also, steady Dylan McCleaft was strong in goal with 12 saves, saving his best for last on a close-in shot by Kerrigan with 1:05 to play.
“This tempo of this game played into their hands,” he said. “We shot a lot and we couldn’t hit the cage and when we did he (MacDougall) made the saves.
“But we knew if we kept our style it would work. (Defensively), we wanted to put onus on our d-middies and they played phenomenal.”
MacDougall, one of the few La Salle seniors that played a lot last year on the state title team, had mixed emotions.
“I am really disappointed but real proud of how we played this year, coming from nothing,” he said of a team that won its third straight Catholic League title. “We came a long way, but we just couldn’t pull it off. I am going to keep hold of this feeling of losing and have that drive me to future successes, but I am still proud of how far we came in beating (St. Joseph’s) Prep (to win the Catholic League title) and Springfield-Delco (in the PIAA opener).”
La Salle coach Bill Leahy noted that he did alter his team’s style this year to compensate for a lack of experienced returnees and offensive stars such as Matt Rambo and Sean Coleman.
“We had the shots, but we shot too poorly and made too many mistakes,” Leahy said, “and yet we still had a chance to tie.
“You go with your horses. Last year we had Rambo and Coleman. It’s like, chess, you play to your strengths and that’s what we did this year and the kids did a great job.”
Highlights from David Cartularo, Phillysportsvideo.com
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Penncrest 6, La Salle 5
Penncrest 0-2-1-3 – 6
La Salle 1-2-1-1 – 5
Drew Hanna 1g, 1a
Will Manganiello 3g
Ryan Kinnard 1g
Ethan Trusty 1g
Alex Bonnett 1a
Bill Kinnard 1a
Dylan McCleaft 12 saves
Chris Hladczuk 1g
Stephen Hudak 1g
Aidan Kerrigan 1g
Trent Melsheimer 2g
Mitch Soufleris 1a
Colin MacDougall 9 saves