West Xtra: Upstart Moon program putting together a season to remember

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Little did Harry Watts know that when he instituted boys lacrosse in 2010 as a middle-school sport in the Moon Area School District that it would be making waves on the high school level just four years later.

But that's been precisely the case as the Tigers have clawed their way to nearly the pinnacle of the WPIAL Division 2 pecking order as their regular season concluded Wednesday with a game at Division 2, Section 2 rival Seton-LaSalle, Regardless of the outcome, Moon, which entered the regular-season finale with a 13-0 record, likely will be one of the top seeds when the Division 2 playoffs begin next week.

"It's been an amazing run," said Watts, who played in high school at North Hills. "These guys have put forth the effort during the season and in the off-season. They've given top effort, and that's why we've been successful in the last few years."

Moon has had plenty of comfortable victories this season, but what has pleased Watts is the teams mettle in several close games. Moon earned one-goal victories against Mars Area, 4-3, and Canon-McMillan, 9-8, and two-goal victories against Indiana, 7-5, and Chartiers Valley, 8-6.

"I think those [close games] help," he said. "We've talked about that at practice, and we've talked about maintaining a culture of improvement. Games like that have helped us find ways to get better, and they've developed a real passion to play.

"We were down by two or three goals in a couple of those games, and we came back in all of them. These guys definitely have character, that's for sure."

Something else the Tigers have is balance. Five players, led by junior attack A.J. Hamer'steam-leading 38 goals and 21 assists, have scored 12 or more goals apiece this season.

The Tigers' other top scorers include senior attack Alex Connor with 32 goals and 11 assists, sophomore midfielder Sal Pollastro with 30 goals and 24 assists, sophomore attack Ben Price with 24 goals and 10 assists and junior midfielder Nick Cap with 12 goals and five assists.

"I didn't realize it was going to be like that," said Connor, who plans to major in chemical engineering and play on the club lacrosse team at the University of Pittsburgh. "But we have a team where so many guys can score. That means we've done a good job of moving the ball around and running plays. The guys who have gotten the assists get as much credit as the guys scoring the goals."

Watts is pleased that his team is not predictable.

"It's refreshing that you don't have to put the weight on one player to score," he said. "It's nice to see these guys sharing the wealth and spreading the ball. I've told the guys that talent wins games, but effort and passion win championships."

Defense is a crucial commodity for a championship lacrosse team, and Watts said his team has had plenty of that this season.

"We brought in a new assistant, Ricky Shenk, to focus on defense, and he's done a great job," Watts said. "Our defense gets mad when they give up a single goal, but I've told them this isn't like the NHL. Still, they want a shutout with every game, but they know they will make mistakes, and they've learned from them."

Senior defender Scott Sevin, junior defender Max Huffman and junior defensive midfielder Ryan Otto, all have played integral roles in stifling defenses in front of sophomore goalie Ryan Lee.

"Scott has done a good job of clearing out the crease, while Max has been our shutdown defender. We put him on the other team's best offensive player, and we put Ryan on the other team's second-best offensive player.

"I can't say enough about our defense," Connor said. "They're just as coordinated on defense as we are on offense, and their effort has made it easy for the offense."

As for Lee, Watts couldn't have asked for a better effort in goal.

"He is calm in goal, and he gets the defense to play hard for him," Watts said. "He's motivated to do well, and he has great hand-eye coordination. He gives you everything you need, but the great thing is that he's young, and we're grateful that he's doing so well right now."

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