Strong defense bolsters North Hills boys lacrosse

Thursday, April 26, 2018 | 11:00 PM

With a little more than half of the WPIAL boys lacrosse season in the books, most of the success North Hills has had has been on the back of its defense.

The Indians' (2-4, 1-1) defensive prowess was on display in a pair of recent, narrow victories. First, they topped Freeport, 6-5 before gaining their first Section 4-AAA win of the season by holding Sewickley Academy to just three goals in a 4-3 overtime victory.

While the team's two victories were small samples, North Hills coach Don Longo said the season-long stats back up his team's overall defensive improvements.

“I think we've definitely improved a lot from last year. Defensively, for one, our average goals against are down. On average, we're allowing about three less goals per game then we were last year,” Longo said.

“On the defensive half, we're keeping games a lot closer, which is really helping.”

Longo described goalie Damien Iarrusso as the backbone of the team's ability to prevent goals. The second-year starter has the full trust of his team, according to his coach, and is supported by a solid group of defensemen spearheaded by the experienced duo of Josh Helfferich and Max Bauer.

A fourth-year letter winner, Helfferich is a jack-of-all-trades for Longo's defense. He is relied on to take charge of the unit as an on-field leader. Similarly, Bauer, a junior, possesses plenty of varsity experience and has the full confidence of his coach on defense.

Though North Hills' defense has been able to impose its will at times, Longo admitted the offense has been a slightly different story. Senior Ryan Buzzard and junior Christian James have each put in strong offensive efforts in the first half of the season, but the team is working on improving its scoring punch.

Since the beginning of the season, North Hills has been working on implementing a new offensive system that is a little more structured. Admittedly, Longo said the team hasn't clicked just right with the new game plan just yet, but he sees signs of them turning a corner with their goal-scoring.

“At the halfway point of the season, we're still working on that new system, so I'm thinking in the second half of the season it's really going to kick in and help out,” Longo said.

“I think the offense is going to turn on in this second half. It's just a matter of time. Especially with the weather, it's been hard to get consistent practice time outside, but now that the weather's starting to break, that's going to help, too.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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