Mars surges past South Fayette to claim 7th straight WPIAL boys lacrosse championship

Thursday, May 25, 2023 | 12:37 AM

Undefeated and second-seeded South Fayette was the latest team to step up to try to end the Mars title run, which dates to 2016.

The Lions gave the Fightin’ Planets everything they could handle in the first half, trailing by only three goals at the break.

But Mars used a quick start in the third quarter, scoring three times in just over three minutes, to take control of the game on its way to 16-7 win in the WPIAL Class 2A boys lacrosse championship game Wednesday night at Robert Morris. It’s the seventh straight title for the Fightin’ Planets.

“We knew that we were building the program for the long haul,” said Mars coach Bob Marcoux. “The youth program started things off. There’s a good culture in that program that really brings us talent. But I never thought it would be a run like this.”

Junior Jack McKenzie sparked the outburst by winning the second half draw and scoring just five seconds into the period.

Penn State recruit Vincenzo Grieco, who tallied five goals and three assists in the victory, scored 48 seconds after McKenzie, and Ian Coulter’s followed with his 53rd goal of the season to put Mars ahead 10-4.

“It seems to take us a little bit to get into our offense and get things rolling,” said Marcoux. “We are definitely a second-half team.”

Grieco, who now has 97 goals on the season, added another tally later in the period for Mars, which hasn’t lost a WPIAL playoff game since May of 2015.

The game was tied 1-1 when South Fayette’s Spence Hondru scored his first of two goals for the Lions. Freshman attack Drew Welhorsky paced the Lions offensively with a hat trick. Senior Dom Oliastro added a goal and an assist for South Fayette (18-1), while Travis Watkins was busy in net, finishing with 14 saves.

Coulter and seniors Jack Dunham and Kyle McEwen each had two goals for Mars, with Ryan Blake scoring twice and adding an assist in the win.

Blake added a pair of helpers for the Fightin’ Planets and McKenzie, who is committed to UMBC, also picked up an assist.

Marcoux previously said that this year’s team was its own entity, but the fact that the players have been around the program for years helped lead to more success.

“That absolutely helps,” he said. “This senior class has been the best group of seniors from a leadership standpoint that we’ve had. They have really taken the rest of the team under their wings; they’ve been through all of it. They had to sit out their freshman year because of covid, and they’ve really done a great job of instilling the Mars tradition in the rest of the team.”

Even though the WPIAL season ended in disappointment for the Lions for the second straight year with a loss to Mars, South Fayette will head to the state playoffs to face the District 10 champion.

South Fayette, in just the program’s seventh year, will be making its third appearance in the state tournament.

Mars, which last year won the Class 2A state title with a 9-6 win over Marple Newtown, begins its defense of that championship by facing the fourth-place finisher from District 3 on Tuesday, June 6.

The Mars championship was the first state lacrosse title for any team from the WPIAL, boys or girls, regardless of classification.

“We’re definitely glad that we were able to represent Western Pennsylvania last year, and we’re definitely looking forward to a run this year,” said Marcoux. “We would love to finish our season at Panzer in State College.”

The state finals this year are scheduled for Panzer Stadium at Penn State.

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