Deep senior class leads Gateway boys lacrosse to 5-4 start

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Friday, April 26, 2019 | 6:50 PM


When the Gateway boys lacrosse team celebrated senior night before Thursday’s Section 1-AA game against Knoch at Antimarino Stadium, it was one of the longer ceremonies of that nature for any team in any sport this year.

Nineteen seniors were honored, and it was an emotional time for a group that established a junior high program five years ago and kept the varsity program competitive in their four seasons.

The team’s goals and expectations remain high this season, and it earned a key 17-11 section victory over the Knights.

“That was a great senior-night victory,” Gateway coach Dan Alexander said. “It was an important section win for us.”

The triumph put Gateway at 5-4 overall and 3-3 in section play. The Gators, who bounced back from a 10-9 loss to section rival Franklin Regional one day earlier, are 5-0 at home and 0-4 on the road.

Gateway hoped to buck the road trend Tuesday in a scheduled section game at Indiana. The game was to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

The Gators hoped to score their first-ever win over the Indians.

Gateway is set to host North Catholic on Thursday in section play before its section finale May 7 at Plum. The Gators sit in playoff position as the top six teams from both Class AA sections qualify for the WPIAL playoffs set to begin May 13.

The Gateway players, Alexander said, were able kept their emotions in check against Knoch. The Gators led by four goals in the first half and held off a Knights rally before pulling away.

Senior offensive midfielders Jason Reber and Nevin Matthews each scored six goals against Knoch. Senior attacker Blake Hanisek added four goals, while senior attacker Marco Contestabile scored once.

“My life has really changed on this field,” Reber said. “I’ve played so many different sports, but lacrosse is the one I love, and it’s special to celebrate (senior night) with my teammates.”

Senior goalie Nicolai Mireles made 11 saves. Alexander said Mireles played while under the weather.

“Nicolai played well,” Alexander said. “He wasn’t missing senior night.”

Gateway started its season with a 20-6 loss to WPIAL power and section foe Mars.

“We took a tough loss against Mars, who has a tremendous defense, but we learned different ways to get around that and attack the net,” Contestabile said. “We learned from our mistakes, and it gave us confidence.”

The Gators bounced back three days later and routed Hempfield, 17-6, and they were off and running.

Section wins followed against Freeport and Greensburg Central Catholic wrapped around a tough section loss to Hampton.

“Going into the season, we expected every game to be a challenge,” Reber said. “At this point, it doesn’t matter about anyone’s record. It comes down to who is determined to work the hardest for the win.”

Matthews led all scorers with 29 goals through the Knoch victory, and Reber had 27. Hanisek scored 19 goals, senior co-captain Geno Bellante had 11, and Contestabile and senior attacker Adriazka Pribadi had five each.

Reber said there are numerous other players in the lineup able to put the ball in the back of the net.

“Everyone now is at the peak of their performance,” he said. “Anyone on the field is a threat. The offense is backed up by a pretty strong defense.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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