Since the WPIAL began to sanction boys lacrosse in 2009, the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils have had an on-again, off-again pattern when it comes to winning WPIAL Division I championships.
The Blue Devils had gold-medal winning performances in 2009 and 2011 before winning their third overall title and second for fourth-year coach Mike Ermer with a heart-stopping 9-8 victory against North Allegheny in the championship game on May 23 at Baldwin High School.
Unfortunately for them, the Blue Devils' foray into the PIAA Division I playoffs was a short one as Mt. Lebanon's season ended with a 13-9 loss to Carlisle on May 29 at Hempfield Area High School. The loss ended the Blue Devils' season at 16-5. But the 2014 team could break that "every-other-year" pattern and possibly contend for a WPIAL title, considering there is plenty of talent returning.
Ermer said his most enduring memory of this season lies beyond the 21 games his team played.
"[What I remember most is] 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.," he said. "That was our time to practice, and that was our standard time. We played just 21 games, but we had more than 50 practices. What stood out was that this team stuck together through all of those practices, and what also stuck out was the leadership."
Ermer-coached teams have maintained a sense of consistency regardless of how many players have departed from the previous team. That formula for success appears to be in place for 2014. Despite eight players departing via graduation from the 2013 squad, Ermer is quite confident that the returning players will maintain the formula for success.
The 2013 Blue Devils team had plenty of senior leadership and younger players dominating the score sheet. The Blue Devils' top six scorers were an equal mix of three seniors and three underclassmen.
Seniors Doran Graham, Tim McNichol and Chris O'Dell combined to score 120 goals, with Graham's 63 goals pacing the team. O'Dell and McNichol added 29 and 28, respectively.
But what gives Ermer a sense of optimism is the 76 goals that sophomore Brian Kelly, sophomore Sam White and freshman Brian Ward combined to score. Kelly and White both scored 32 goals. Ward added 14.
He's hoping the younger players absorbed the message that was passed along by the older ones.
"The senior class that just went through never lost a game to a sectional opponent," he said.
"This season came down to senior leadership. It wasn't so much what they said in the huddles as much as what they did on the field. The seniors took charge and set the tone."
Senior faceoff specialist Jack McMahon and senior goalie Will Nabors played big roles in the team's success.
Five of the eight seniors will be playing lacrosse on the college level. Graham will play at Division I Jacksonville, while McNichol and O'Dell are attending McDaniel College, a Division III school in Westminster, Md. McMahon will play for Division I Lafayette, while Nabors will be in goal at Ermer's alma mater, Division III Denison in Ohio.
Jamison Dowling (Temple), Blake Woodyard (IUP) and Clay Wida (University of Miami, Fla.) do not plan to play in college.
"Each team is different," Ermer said. "We're looking forward to seeing what the next group of players will do."
First Published June 6, 2013 4:00 AM