Late-season surge bolstered playoff run for North Allegheny boys lacrosse

Thursday, June 7, 2018 | 11:00 PM

Facing the prospect of finishing the season with an ordinary result, the North Allegheny boys lacrosse team found its mojo.

Starting with two wins against schools from Ohio, the Tigers rolled off five straight wins to reach the WPIAL finals.

While the Tigers' season ended with consecutive losses to Peters Township and Manheim Township, having a strong surge down the stretch allowed North Allegheny to reach the PIAA playoffs for the second time in three years.

The Tigers (13-9) were 8-7 before their streak started. North Allegheny coach John Rullan was happy with how everything came together.

After an 8-7 upset win over Pine-Richland in overtime in the semifinal, Rullan expected more magic in the WPIAL final.

That dream was dashed in a 9-7 loss to Peters Township.

Kyler Byerly recorded a hat trick for the Tigers, but a 5-2 deficit in the first quarter proved too deep of a hole to dig out of.

“I think they didn't expect to lose to Peters to be honest,” Rullan said.

“They had their confidence up. I don't think anybody thought we were going to get that far. I think in their minds, we thought we would.”

Having a stout defense helped North Allegheny survive its playoff run.

The Tigers held four of their five postseason opponents below 10 goals.

“They started to play a lot better on defense,” Rullan said.

“Our zone defense started to work pretty well. They got that down, and that always throws teams for a loop at the end of the year. If you haven't practiced against the zone, you have to prepare for it and it makes things tougher. The junior class is strong, and they believed they could do it.”

Against the Blue Streaks, North Allegheny's defensive touch ran out. Manheim Township (23-1) built a 9-3 lead through the first three quarters and put 19 shots on net. Tigers freshman goalie Aiden Miller made 10 saves.

Isaiah Davis (two goals), Wes Powell, Byerly and Chris Eck all scored goals for North Allegheny.

Improving on offense will be a focus for the Tigers next season.

“They need to be better at picking what shots they shoot,” Rullan said. “Another year playing against high-caliber teams during the summer and fall and they should be in good shape.”

With all the youngsters in the lineup, Rullan can see North Allegheny making another run at the PIAA playoffs next year.

“I think they can compete for the next few years,” Rullan said.

“There were a lot of sophomores and juniors this year. I think they feel they are in a good spot to do something for the next two seasons.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.


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