Gateway boys lacrosse seeking program’s 1st playoff victory
By: Michael Love
Friday, March 29, 2019 | 8:11 PM
The Gateway varsity boys lacrosse team is an experienced group.
Eighteen seniors out of 22 players on the roster speak to that.
“We’re basically in win-now mode,” defender and team co-captain Nick Alexander said. “We’re hoping to get back to the playoffs and make history with a win and go further.”
The large senior group, which found its genesis in the start of Gateway’s junior high program five years ago, has the team’s sights focused on the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
The Gators fell to Latrobe and North Catholic in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs in 2016 and ’17, respectively.
“We have everyone we need, and I think we are going to do well this year,” said senior co-captain Blake Hanisek, an attacking forward who scored 20 goals last year. “We’ve been together for a long time, and this is our year.”
Gateway started strong last year with wins in its first three games, but the team, which saw several key players bitten by the injury bug, struggled to gather wins after that. The Gators finished 0-4 in section play.
Senior faceoff specialist Nevin Matthews is back after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury.
A new opportunity in Class AA has Gateway facing Section 1 foes North Catholic, Franklin Regional, Freeport, Greensburg Central Catholic, Hampton, Indiana, Knoch, Mars and Plum.
The Gators will play each section opponent one time. The top six teams from each of the two Class AA sections will qualify for the playoffs.
“We came up with a team slogan for this year, and it’s ‘Making History,’ ” said first-year coach Dan Alexander, a Gateway varsity assistant the past three seasons under John Washington. “There are teams like Indiana and Greensburg Central Catholic who we’ve never beaten. We came close against them a few times, and beating them this year is one of our goals. The team also is very focused on getting that first playoff win. They’ve worked so hard every day to help make that happen.”
Gateway was to host Freeport in section play Wednesday, in a game played past the deadline for this week’s edition.
“The pressure is on this year, and I think we will respond,” said senior defender Phillip Wise, who joins Hanisek, Alexander and senior midfielder Geno Bellante as co-captains this year.
The Gators visit Hampton on April 9.
Gateway kicked off its season with a 20-6 loss to two-time defending WPIAL Class AA champion Mars on March 26. The Planets also won the 2016 WPIAL Division II title.
“Mars is always one of the top teams in the WPIALs,” coach Alexander said. “I saw great effort from the guys. During timeouts, they were really talking about what was working and what they wanted to try next. The defense never stopped working all four quarters.”
Gateway played Mars to an even 4-4 score in the second half.
“Mars has always been a tough opponent, but we didn’t give up,” Nick Alexander said. “We kept fighting to the end. That’s what this team is all about. We’re going to fight no matter what the situation is.”
The Gators bounced back Friday with a 17-6 victory over Hempfield. Matthews and senior Jason Reber led the way with five goals apiece, while Hanisek added four. Bellante and seniors Marco Contestable and Adriazka Pribadi each contributed a goal in the win.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .