By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/19/20
HEADstrong Lehigh Valley 2021 goalie Ben Franco said a little heat wave could not get in the way of a victorious return to the lacrosse field this weekend.
“It was nice even though it was a little hot – but hey that’s summer lacrosse and part of the game,” said Franco, who helped his squad go 4-0 and win the 2021 White Division A title at the Victory Events Boys Summer Slam at the Proving Grounds.
Franco (Emmaus High) had 5 saves as HEADstrong scored the game’s final 8 goals and toppled the Bandits, 9-5, for the crown. HEADstrong went 4-0 overall and also downed the Bandits, 7-1, earlier in the day in round round robin action.
The tourney was the first of the summer for HEADstrong LV, which yielded only 6 goals in its four games.
“We have been playing in a high school league in the Lehigh Valley for about a week and that has helped,” Franco said.
Franco admitted it was tough to lose the season to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emmaus was the defending District 1 Class AAA champion.
“It was a shame; I wish we could have played,” he said. “We had a good lineup this year and I was excited to see what could have come of it.
“I kept working out, doing everythign I could. I was always trying to better myself and better my skills.”
Franco said it was easy to enjoy getting back on the field.
“It was fun,” he said. “It our last summer of lacrosse so we might as well ball out and enjoy it.”
The top scorer in the title game was actually a 2023, Niko Karetsos, formerly of the Emmaus region and now a standout rising sophomore at Pace Academy, near Atlanta, GA.
Karetsos, who plays for Thunder LB3, was his high school team’s top scorer despite being a freshmen, during a 5-0 season ended early by the pandemic. He came up north recently for quarantine and was added to the Lehigh Valley roster.
“I lived here my first 13 years of life and even played here in the (NXT) Sunday League with Stars and Stripes/Lehigh Valley,” he said. “It was nice to get back here. I played with a lot of these guys when we were kids and we know HEADstrong director Mike Bender.
“We were 5-0 when the pandemic hit and it was sad to see the seniors lose their season. It was a fun experience for me at Pace, getting to play with bigger kids.”
Karetsos said he improved during quarantine by playing against his older brother Evan, a 2021 defenseman committed to Dickinson.
“I was going 1-on-1 a lot with my brother during quarantine in our backyard,” Niko said. “The field was open, so we never stopped playing.
“Evan is a really good defender and it helepd me get better even though we couldn’t be with the team.”