Penn-Trafford boys lacrosse hopes consistency catches up with talent

Friday, April 12, 2019 | 6:55 PM

Just three years ago, the Penn-Trafford boys lacrosse team earned its first section title and first WPIAL playoff berth in the history of a program that is in the midst of its ninth season.

But alignments change, players graduate and coaches often are forced to adjust on a year-by-year basis.

Building a program isn’t an easy task, though, and coach Dan Hagerty, who has been with the program since its inception, is starting to see the program come together because of a growing youth program that is supplying the varsity team with talented and experienced players.

“When you get kids who have only been playing for a year, and you’re all of a sudden playing a competitive game at the varsity level, it doesn’t really work to well,” Hagerty said. “Now we’re getting the kids who have been playing for six or seven years before they get to high school level, and they are ready to contribute right away.

“Having strong youth program that is able to really get kids to fall in love with lacrosse at a young age is crucial. Because when you get kids that are freshmen or sophomores picking up a stick for the first time, it’s difficult to be successful at this level.”

This season’s varsity has a mixture of talent, young and old. The defense is anchored by four seniors who were mainstays for a team that only allowed five teams to score in the double-digits last season: Christian Ogburn, Jacob Pepple, Dom Dupilka and goaltender Aaron Deutch.

In the first five games, they combined to allow 5.4 goals per game.

“They are a very strong group that works well together, and a lot of what we run is controlled by them,” Hagerty said. “So I do rely on them to get the midfielders in position and get everyone else in place.”

On offense, New Jersey Institute of Technology commit Griffin Martin is the go-to guy. Hagerty said Martin can do it all.

“He’s always pushing the ball, creating offense, and he’s the guy that really drives the offense and makes things happen,” Hagerty said.

Complementing those five, the Warriors have a trio of freshmen who have Hagerty excited about the future. Carter Green, Declan Ochendowski and Bennett Dupilka have shown potential in different ways in their young high school careers.

“Carter is a freshmen midfielder who doesn’t get off the field much and is always out there with Griffin. He’s talented offensively, works well off the ball and will be outstanding for us,” Hagerty said. “Bennett, Dominic’s brother, is an attackman with really good stick skills and comes up with a lot of experience from the youth program.

“Then, Declan is a 6-foot-4 defensemen, who, if you put another 40 pounds on him, could be really dangerous, so he could be big for us, too.”

The talent is there for the Warriors, but in order to be successful this season they will need to put it all together. So far this season, Hagerty has seen his team’s potential at times as it has gone 3-3.

“Baldwin was a strong win. Franklin was a good win, and even against Upper St. Clair, where they beat us by six because they were a really strong team, we played really well,” Hagerty said. “So even though we lost that game, I was really happy with how we played, and both sides of the ball did really well. It showed we definitely can do it.”

Inconsistency has been a problem in their last two games. In a 5-1 loss to South Fayette, the defense played outstanding, but the offense lacked explosiveness. Then, in their 14-8 loss to Latrobe, it was the opposite.

Moving forward, turning in a complete team performance will be key for the Warriors, especially in the games they are supposed to win.

“We have things to work on, on both sides of the ball, to pull together a complete game,” Hagerty said. “Half the team plays great, and the other half doesn’t. I think it’s more just jelling together as a full unit is what we need to work on.”


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