North Allegheny holds off Shady Side charge, captures 1st WPIAL lacrosse title since 2016

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Thursday, May 27, 2021 | 10:55 PM


A month ago, North Allegheny freshman Evan Lyon was playing JV lacrosse for the Tigers.

In fact, when the Tigers took the field at Robert Morris’ Joe Walton Stadium on Thursday for the WPIAL Class 3A title game against top-seeded Shady Side Academy, the freshman wasn’t even listed in the official program.

That didn’t matter to Lyon.

He scored four first-half goals before the No. 3 Tigers (12-4) exploded for four goals in the third quarter and staved off a late charge by the Bulldogs (14-4) to earn a 9-8 victory and the program’s first title since 2016.

“We needed it,” North Allegheny coach John Rullan said about winning the program’s second WPIAL title in five years. “I’m like Marty Schottenheimer. I get them here and then we end up losing a lot, but to get another one is good. It feels good, and I finally get a chance to enjoy it.”

Earlier this season, the Bulldogs, who hadn’t lost to a WPIAL team all season, took it to North Allegheny on May 7 and came away with a 16-8 victory. Thursday’s contest was much closer.

Thompson Lau, Ethan Salvia and Jack Todd scored three straight goals for the Bulldogs in the first quarter as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead and took command of the game. They held that lead throughout the first half, but the Tigers never went away.

Lyon scored his first goal with 2 minutes, 55 seconds left in the first quarter before Salvia tallied his second and third of the game to make it 5-1.

The Tigers went on to score eight of the next nine goals, including six unanswered between the second and third quarter. Lyon scored North Allegheny’s final three goals of the first half.

“I’m just along for the ride. I was just out there doing my job,” he said.

Although the Bulldogs held the lead going into halftime, the Tigers showcased their strength coming out of the break as they scored four goals in the third quarter and shut out Shady Side Academy. Rullan said it’s been one of their strengths all season long.

“That’s what we’re known for, coming out strong out of halftime,” Rullan said. “That’s the way we play. We really try to come out in that second half with high energy and try to capitalize. It was good.”

After a strong first half, the Bulldogs got away from some of their strengths later in the game, and coach Cam Thompson said he was disappointed in their groundball work in the third quarter, which is part of what led to North Allegheny’s run.

“We take a lot of pride in winning the GB battle and we didn’t do so in that third quarter,” Thompson said.

The Bulldogs didn’t go away, though, and through most of the fourth quarter, they pressed as they looked for the goal that would steal the momentum. Battling against a zone that was designed to slow them down, Salvia started to take over for the Bulldogs.

The talented sophomore scored his fourth goal of the game with 5:20 left to make it 9-7, then added his fifth just under 40 seconds later to make it 9-8. Thompson knew that if they were going to make a comeback, Salvia was going be a big part of it, and he had no problem with that.

“Ethan is the best player in the league, and when you have to come back and take the game over, he’s the guy that’s going to do it,” Thompson said. “So we were very confident that he and Jack Todd and the other guys that we have on our offense we’re going to get looks, and we did. We were big believers that one was going to fall for us, and their goalie made some key stops.”

With around a minute remaining, the Bulldogs got one last opportunity before North Allegheny gained possession and Aiden Miller came up with the biggest save of the night to keep the Tigers in the lead.

“That was a game changer because if they score there, they have the momentum,” Rullan said. “That’s a solid team over there and that No. 8 (Ethan Salvia), he’s a beast. But I think when we went to the zone, that was the difference.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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