Young Pine-Richland roster ready to contend during chaotic WPIAL lacrosse season

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Saturday, March 27, 2021 | 10:01 AM


On paper, the Pine-Richland boys lacrosse team is still the defending WPIAL Class AAA champion, but there’s been plenty of change in the two-year span since they last took the field.

“We have two combined starts. Not starters, but starts on the team from that 2019 unit,” Pine-Richland coach Kevin Welty said. “We’re essentially working with a brand-new group of guys in terms of playing experience, but there were guys that were on the bench for that WPIAL championship and state playoff run.

“But I think we’re pretty much in the same boat as everyone else in the WPIAL after last year’s season was canceled. Outside of a team that may have had a super sophomore that started, everyone is pretty much starting fresh.”

The goal for the Rams in spring practices and early in the season is to work on becoming cohesive and shaking the rust from the canceled 2020 season.

So far, there have been plenty of positives that Welty has seen from players like being coachable and having spirited practices.

“What’s interesting about this group is that we have some tough decisions as coaches on who’s going to start because the entire group is really competitive,” Welty said. “On any given day, who steps up could be a variety of different guys. It’s good that we have that parity on our roster where we have a lot of guys that are great athletes and really hard workers. I think that’s the definition of our team this year rather than one superstar that stands out.

“We’re working to make up the gap that was created by not having last season. At each practice, we just need to do a little extra to make up that ground individually and as a team. Hopefully, if we’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, we’ll have closed that gap a little more than other teams.”

Welty said the team will be more defensively focused because there’s some experience in that part of the field, but there’s potential for the offense. On the defensive side, he mentioned Jack Delaney and Alex Jacobs as two players he’s been impressed with early on.

“They’ve been both working hard on the field physically,” Welty said. “They are taking that extra step not only understanding our defense, but knowing what opposing offenses are going to try to do this year.”

The Rams have three senior captains in Sam Neill, Josh Hayes and Ed Thomas. They were chosen by team vote after all seniors that wanted to gave speeches about what the sport means to them and why they want to be captain.

Pine-Richland will be in Section 2 with Allderdice, Butler, Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, North Allegheny, Norwin, Seneca Valley and Shady Side Academy.

Welty feels it’ll be hard to predict what will happen in section play. There are traditional powers that usually rise to the top and Pine-Richland is one of them, but the uncertainty that comes from not having a 2020 season brings some question marks around the WPIAL.

“There are programs that you know are going to have a solid team every year because of their coaching staff and their feeder program and their culture around lacrosse,” Welty said. “What’s interesting this year is you have to throw that all out the window to a certain extent. I wouldn’t be shocked if those teams end up on top, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if there are some darkhorse teams that surprise a lot of people.

“I don’t think you’re going to have the typical section breakdown where one team is undefeated and the next has two losses, etc. I believe there will be some upsets from teams that are maybe punching above their weight class and others that may drop games that you wouldn’t expect to. It could be chaos.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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