Strong start helps propel Franklin Regional boys lacrosse into WPIAL playoffs

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Saturday, May 13, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Franklin Regional boys lacrosse coach Luke Stephens is familiar with the Panthers program.

The 2013 Franklin Regional grad played for the Panthers and was an assistant coach for five seasons before becoming the head coach this season.

And while the season hasn’t gone as well as hoped, the Panthers are 6-9 overall, and Stephens has seen improvement.

“We’re a young team, and we have a couple close losses,” Stephens said. “We’ve been competitive against some good teams. We’re (were) battling for that last playoff spot.”

The Panthers dropped six consecutive losses at the end of the regular season, including games to Indiana and Penn-Trafford the past week. But they did qualify for the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. They were scheduled to open the playoffs with a game at Shaler on Monday (May 15).

Franklin Regional has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs every year since 2017. The only year it didn’t qualify during that span was in 2020 when the tournament was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Panthers won first-round games in 2021 against Shaler (8-7) and in 2019 against South Fayette (9-7). Mars defeated the Panthers in the semifinals. In 2017 and 2018 the Panthers were in Class 3A.

“The more we’re competitive against the good teams, the better we’ll become,” Stephens said. “We’re moving in the right direction. “

Some of the Panthers’ top players include junior midfielder Cole Vollero, senior defender Luke Lavrich, senior midfielder Andrew Carrick, sophomore defender Brent Hickey, sophomore midfielder Heath Sliva and senior goalkeeper Torin Pottinger.

“We had a lot of guys have solid seasons,” Stephens said. “We’ve shown a lot of growth. I feel every time we take the field, it’s a good thing.

“Cole is a reliable player. He does it all. Luke is a solid defender while Andrew, Brent and Heath do good things.”

The Panthers began the season by winning six of their first nine games. Then they dropped close games to Shaler (8-6), Trinity (10-9) and Indiana (8-4).

They dropped a 17-7 decision in the final regular season game to Penn-Trafford, which earned a No. 3 seed in the WPIAL Class 2A tournament.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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