HIGH SCHOOL LACROSSE: Indiana wins first section title
Exacting revenge on WPIAL powerhouse Greensburg Central Catholic tasted awfully sweet for the Indiana boys’ lacrosse team.
Clinching the school’s first section title in the process tasted much sweeter.
The Indians scored seven unanswered goals, sewed up their first section title since the program was formed in 2009 and toppled Greensburg Central Catholic for the first time in school history with a 9-3 win in a WPIAL Division 2 Section 1 game Wednesday night at Andy Kuzneski Field.
Last season, the Centurions erased a four-goal deficit and beat Indiana, 13-12, to win their eighth section title in nine years.
Greensburg Central Catholic has lost just two section games in the past 10 seasons. The Indians also fell to the Centurions in their first playoff game last season.
“We’re the two strongest teams in our section, and this was a very important game,” first-year Indiana coach Alan Affolter said.
“It feels very rewarding. The guys have been working extremely hard and our skill level is way up, and that all showed on the field tonight.”
Dylan Stapleton took a David Zimmerman feed and put Indiana on the board first with a goal from the left wing from five yards with 10:32 left in the first quarter. Zimmerman fed Stapleton again in the same spot roughly eight minutes later, and again Stapleton fired a shot past Greensburg Central Catholic goalie Zach Ringling to make it 2-0.
“He gets in position and I see that big body wide open and he puts it in the net. It’s as easy as that,” Zimmerman said of Stapleton, who scored a game-high four goals.
The Centurions countered early in the second quarter and scored two goals in a 16-second span to momentarily steal the game’s momentum. Willis Croker first uncorked a goal that sailed over the right shoulder of Indiana goalie Max Kittelmann, and Barrett Naugle whipped a shot past Kittelmann from the right wing to knot the game, 2-2.
Just 59 seconds later, and in the midst of a scramble for the ball, Indiana defenseman Tyler Milsop accidentally shoveled a short shot past Kittelmann into his own goal to give the Centurions a 3-2 lead.
Indiana regrouped, however, and netted three unanswered goals in the last 5:33 of the second quarter to take a 5-3 lead.
Stapleton beat Ringling with a nifty backhand to tie the game at 3 with 5:33 left in the second.
Luke Lewandowski then rifled a pass to Keldon Spicher, who bounced a sizzling shot under the stick of Tim Szekelly and in between the legs of Ringling to give Indiana a 4-3 lead with 1:39 left in the second.
Zimmerman finished the late rally by scoring on a shot from the left wing that caromed off Ringling’s stick with 34 seconds to play to make it a 5-3 game.
“Everyone was so pumped up for the game, but it took us a while to get used to their defense,” Zimmerman said. “Once we got used to how they were playing we just picked them apart. It was all goals from there on out.”
Zimmerman stretched Indiana’s lead to 6-3 when he fired a shot that Ringling partially blocked but allowed to trickle into the net with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
Spicher made it 7-3 2:57 later by intercepting a pass and slinging a shot between Ringling’s legs.
Spicher then corralled a pass from Ryan Watters on the right wing and scored his third goal to stretch the Indians’ lead to 8-3 with 11:24 left in the game.
Stapleton capped the scoring and put Indiana ahead 9-3 with a goal off a Zimmerman pass with 8:11 left in the game.
“We have so many weapons this year,” Watters said. “Last year we had Andrew Wetzel, who scored 60 goals. This year we’re just spreading the scoring everywhere. We’re running a new offense and everyone gets touches and it’s great.”
The Centurions mustered only two shots on goal in the second half. Kittelmann gave credit to his defense for jacking up the game’s intensity late in the second quarter.
“Our defense was just really feeling it out there,” Kittelmann said. “We came out nervous in the first half, but after that we really came together and played good D. We were playing hard and getting those ground balls.
“The difference was getting that lead before the end of the second quarter. Once we got that 5-3 lead our whole mentality changed and we started playing a lot harder.”
The coach of the Indiana Junior High School lacrosse team last year, Affolter reiterated the significance of getting redemption on the Centurions.
“This was very important,” Affolter said. “If it comes down to us and GCC, we’ll get the home-field advantage, which is a very big deal in the playoffs. And beyond that it’s just a moral lift because they’ve always seemed to have our number.”