By John Walk
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/7/22
READING – A scoreless game for the first eight minutes, Marple Newtown outscored Lampeter-Strasburg, 9-1, the rest of the half in tonight’s PIAA 2A semifinals at Exeter.
It proved to be the difference in a 14-7 MN win that advances the Tigers into the state title game for the first time.
“Both teams were a little tight and tense at the start,” MN third-year coach Kevin Merchant said. “We had no score five minutes left in the first quarter. That comes with the territory right now.”
District 1 champion Marple Newtown (19-4) will meet District 7 champ Mars for the crown Saturday at West Chester East at 2:30 p.m. Mars routed Penncrest, 16-8.
Freshman Brian Box scored his team’s first two goals. Senior brother Charlie Box made it 3-0 by the 1:33 mark of the first quarter. The Box brothers combined for five goals and two assists by halftime and six goals, two assists by the end.
Brian Box finished with four goals while senior Charlie Box, a Cornell recruit, had two goals and two assists.
“We move really well off-ball,” Charlie Box said. “Off that first dodge. Once we get them to slide, that’s what gets us going.”
Lampeter-Strasburg (20-4) was even on total shots, but the quality of shots for Marple Newtown was the discrepancy. Joey Yukenevitch had three goals and Damien Bogsch added a goal and an assist.
“They made the adjustment,” L-S second-year coach Mike McConomy said. “They used our pressure against us. As soon as the pressure came, our off-ball defense, they were able to get a bunch.”
“They switched it up on us,” Merchant said of the L-S defense. “We saw their slide package. We were able to break down some things on it.”
L-S actually outscored MN 6-5 after halftime, but never got the second-half deficit below seven goals. The Tigers won the faceoff battle, 18-7 behind Alex Chambers, and MN senior goalkeeper Jack Welsh made 10 stops.
Laying on the sideline behind MN players Tuesday night was a sledgehammer with a yellow handle emblazoned with the words ‘WE NOT ME’ in black lettering outlined by orange (orange and black are part of the MN school colors).
“The thing with us that we’ve stressed from early on is play as a team, not as individuals. We try to keep the ball hot, keep it moving, take advantage of slide packages and go from there.”
Merchant, a MN alum who played at UMass about 20 years ago, is actually in his second stint as the Tigers coach.
“I coached about 10 years ago for a season here,” he recalled. “It was just a rough year.”
Previous longtime MN coach Tommy Hannum stepped down after the 2019 season.
“An opportunity came up,” Merchant said. “I jumped on it. I live in the community. I’m a Marple guy.”
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, wiping out the 2020 campaign.
“Last year (2021) we made it to the second round of districts,” Merchant said. “We lost to Bishop Shanahan. We have a great group of seniors. Seven guys. We’ve been getting better each game as we go, we’re battle-tested game in, game out. We have a bunch of guys who have stepped up. We start two freshmen. We have a sophomore faceoff guy.”
PIAA 2A semis
Marple Newtown 14, Lampeter-Strasburg 7
Marple Newtown 5-2-3-4-14
Brian Box 4g
Charlie Box 2g 2a
Joey Yukenevitch 3g
Damien Bogsch 1 g 1a
Ryan Keating 1g
Ryan Gorman 1g
Will Lightcap 1g
David Bertoline 2a
Cooper Conroy 2a
Alex Chambers 1g 18/25 F/O
Jack Welsh 10 saves
Colin Sullivan 1 G, 3A
Stewart McClain 4 G
Barrett Denlinger 1 G, 1A
Jack Groff 1 G
Thomas 11 saves