South Fayette boys lacrosse reaches new heights

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Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 11:01 AM


In a season like no other due to the covid-19 protocols, the South Fayette boys lacrosse team enjoyed a season like no other.

“This season was very special,” South Fayette coach Shawn Leydig said. “We knew we had a lot of leadership and talent returning from our upperclassmen. The team decided in the fall that they were all in this year in the preseason workouts, and it showed in March. The guys battled all year long with injuries and a covid shutdown and didn’t make excuses.”

It was a season of firsts for the Lions in their sixth year of existence. SF finished as co-champs with Chartiers Valley in Section 1-2A, reached the WPIAL semifinals and qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

Leydig was voted Class 2A coach of the year by his fellow coaches.

However, the section opener began on a down note in early April when South Fayette lost to Chartiers Valley, 11-9.

“The CV game was a heartbreaker for sure,” Leydig said. “The entire team decided that one loss in the section was not going to define the rest of our year. We concentrated on getting back to fundamentals and taking things one game at a time.”

The Lions bounced back in a big way, winning their final seven section games to finish tied for the section championship.

“Section 1 is good quality lacrosse,” Leydig said. “Quaker Valley was coming off a section championship, CV had a heck of squad with such a small roster, and Sewickley brings it every game. We can only play the teams the schedule makers assign to us, and there aren’t any easy games.”

A good senior core helped define each of the positions and helped South Fayette win 15 games overall.

“On attack, three seniors led the way,” Leydig said. “Justin Vezzi (Saint Vincent), Dimitri Gonzalez (Wittenberg) and Aaron Timco were all threats to score on every play. Midfield was led by seniors J.T. Zaramba (Wheeling) and Bryan Waskowiak (Chestnut Hill) and juniors Logan Purdy and Brandon Waskowiak.

“Defense was a shutdown group of guys nicknamed the ‘Goon Squad,’ led by seniors Gavin Watkins (Seton Hill), Austin Demo and junior Tony Senisi. Goalkeeper Aidan Pierce could take over a game when needed, especially in the playoff game vs Hampton.”

After a first-round bye, fourth-seeded South Fayette edged No. 5 Hampton, 9-8, in a quarterfinals thriller.

“The playoff win against Hampton can’t be put into words,” Leydig said.

South Fayette lost to powerhouse Mars in the semifinals, 20-6. However, the Lions showed resiliency by bouncing back with a 11-5 triumph over North Catholic in the Class 2A consolation game that earned them a first trip to the PIAA playoffs.

“The Mars game was tough physically and emotionally,” Leydig said. “We held two two-goal leads, but unfortunately ran out of gas in the second half. They’re a great team. Bouncing back against North Catholic showed that these guys could look forward and not dwell on the past. They really brought it and earned that state playoff bid.”

The trip to the state playoffs brought the program valuable experience but did not produce a victory as South Fayette fell to Camp Hill Trinity, 23-7.

“Trinity was a very good team,” Leydig said. “It was a great first experience in the state playoffs and many memories we’ll always have with us.”

While the program will say goodbye to so many talented seniors, the groundwork has been laid for what Leydig feels is a bright future for the Lions.

“We’re certainly losing a lot of great members of the team, but the future is very promising,” he said. “Several underclassmen will be playing in college when their time comes, and we hope that the youth program keeps providing a great foundation for the future. I’m the luckiest head coach in the WPIAL for getting to have Jack Halley, Granville Wagner, John Dunn and Daniel Senisi on my staff.”

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