North Xtra: North Allegheny lacrosse setting some goals

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North Allegheny High School's boys lacrosse team could see the evidence staring right back from the documents as the 2012 season had come to an end.

• A No. 6 ranking among Western Pennsylvania boys lacrosse teams by one of the sport's leading authorities,

• A No. 5 ranking by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in its final boys lacrosse rankings.

But the accolades couldn't erase the harsh truth that the Tigers missed qualifying for the WPIAL Division I lacrosse championships by the narrowest of margins.

A 12-4 loss to a solid Pine-Richland team that finished with an 11-6 overall record wasn't that big of a surprise. But that setback came after the Tigers had lost to two teams that ended up finishing the year with .500 records -- Shady Side Academy and Franklin Regional.

North Allegheny lost to Shady Side Academy, 2-0, which finished with a 10-10 record. And Franklin Regional ended a season-starting six-game winning streak with a 7-6 overtime victory against the host Tigers.

Right after that victory, the Panthers went on a seven-game losing streak, but managed to finish with a 9-9 record. The victory against North Allegheny allowed the Panthers to match the Tigers' section record of 2-3 and send the Tigers to the sidelines with nothing to show for a team with an 11-6 record.

Coach John Rullan said his team will be more focused in one area this season.

"We didn't pay as much attention to the [section] games as much as we should have," he said. "And we didn't perform well enough. There were two close games that knocked us out of the playoffs."

Last week, the Tigers were highly focused on their opponent, first-year Division I member Butler Area. The Golden Tornado played well in the first half, and trailed at halftime by one goal. But the Tigers outscored Butler, 6-1, in the third quarter and held off a late Butler rally to earn a 10-7 victory in what turned out to be the Tigers' opener.

Scheduled home games with Mt. Lebanon and Norwin were postponed because of inclement weather.

North Allegheny was hoping to improve to 2-0 with a game Wednesday night at Fox Chapel. The Tigers won't have to wait long for a chance to avenge one of those three crucial section losses from a year ago. North Allegheny plays host to Franklin Regional at 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday.

Rullan expects the Tigers to face tough challenges not only from the rest of the section but also from their newest members, Butler and Hampton.

"It's going to be even tougher," he predicted. "[The North Division] is the better division, and it's tougher with Butler and Hampton. But at NA, we're expected to perform."

Butler qualified for the Division II playoffs a year ago. Hampton won three of the past four Division II titles before moving up to Division I.

In the victory against Butler, midfielders Alec McGovern and Scott Davis set the tone. McGovern, a junior, had three goals. Davis, a senior, added a goal and had five assists.

Davis said his teammates focused a lot on the fundamentals in the offseason.

"We have a lot of players who have worked hard in the offseason and gotten their lacrosse IQs up," he said. "They know where to be and [are there] when the [passes] are going through and we're getting some good goals."

Davis said the team wants to be a part of the playoff picture this year.

"We're working hard to make sure NA gets the reputation of being the toughest and fastest out there," he said.

Earning a hat trick in the first game is a true accomplishment for any lacrosse player, but McGovern was quick to pass along the accolades to Davis and Nick Koebly, who assisted on two of his three goals.

"My teammates set me up really well," he said. "They were great passes, and we needed some goals to get us going."

McGovern said the team was highly motivated entering the season. Last year was the first time North Allegheny missed the playoffs since the WPIAL began sanctioning the sport in 2009.

"We're still a little upset about last year, but we're ready to go this year, and we're going to get [the opposition back]," he said.

"We have a lot more intensity this year and more of a desire to win. And that's paying off."

One area where Rullan said the team must be a little less intense is in the penalty area. In the opener against Butler, the Tigers committed 12 penalties.

"That's unacceptable," he said. "They were legitimate penalties where we were totally out of control for a little bit."



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