After slow start, Pine-Richland boys lacrosse gaining ground

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Sunday, May 8, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Pine-Richland boys lacrosse team installed new offensive and defensive philosophies this season and did so against an ambitious early season schedule.

It was all done by design, but it came with some early heartache as the Rams dropped eight of their first nine games.

However, once they got into a rhythm, they found their footing and are trending in the right direction with the postseason on the horizon.

The Rams won four games in a row entering a section matchup with North Allegheny on May 4. They were 5-8 and 4-2 in Section 1-3A prior to the North Allegheny game.

“The feeling in the locker room amongst the coaching staff and the players was that the wins would eventually come,” Rams coach Dave Offner said. “We knew we had the talent. It was just more about cleaning things up and having the guys slow the game down in their minds.

“We struggled with that at the beginning of the season, because we made some tweaks to our offense and defense. Getting up to speed was a little more difficult with the new systems opposed to years past when we already had everything set. Once they got more comfortable, that’s when it started to turn.”

The early schedule included a game against Class 2A power Mars and a weekend trip to Philadelphia for games with West Chester Rustin and Upper Dublin. During the losing streak, three of the losses were by three goals or less, including a 13-12 defeat against Peters Township.

The winning streak started on April 22 with a 16-14 triumph at Seneca Valley. It was a back-and-forth game, but the Rams stuck together and pulled it out.

“We talked a lot during the losing streak that we let the script of the game get to our heads too much and we told them to stick to the game plan, and if we execute it regardless of the situation in the game, we would eventually beat them,” Offner said. “In the past we had a couple of guys kind of try to play hero ball and we told them they aren’t going to score three goals with one shot.

“We played more as a team and didn’t have one guy thinking the whole game was on their shoulders. We distributed everything across the team and played together.”

The Rams then picked up wins over Allderdice, Butler and Norwin. The Butler win was the most dramatic of the season, with Cooper Zancosky scoring the game-winner with just over a minute remaining. It was the only lead Pine-Richland had in the entire game.

A halftime adjustment helped turn the tide.

“That was an interesting game, because we tried a new defense against them and they were draining the clock with their time of possession,” Offner said. “The defense was intended to slow the game down and invite shots from the outside, which we relied on to get turnovers. They were just extending their possessions too long and we weren’t getting the amount of possessions we wanted, so at halftime, we went to a man-to-man defense and applied more pressure on the ball. It led to success in getting more turnovers. We sped up the game and that seemed to be the trick.”

Zancosky led the team in points with 41 through May 4. Andrew Mellis had a team-best 20 goals. Zancosky had 17 goals and Zachary Sporrer scored 16.

Offner credited the team leaders with keeping things on track. The Rams added a fourth captain Tommy Whitford to join Sporrer, Levi Krebs and Tristen Taylor, the three chosen at the beginning of the year.

“The leadership helped carry us through this,” Offner said. “There’s no quit in our guys, especially our leaders. Having extra guys pitching in as leaders and making sure that we believe in ourselves and that we push each other every day at practice has really paid off.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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