East Xtra: Franklin Regional will stick to winning plan

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Breaking even is not good enough for Dave Alexander and his Franklin Regional High School boys lacrosse team.

"We had some close games last year," said Alexander, who became the team's head coach a year ago after spending six years as the Panthers junior varsity coach. "We finished around .500 last year [8-9, including a 15-10 first-round WPIAL playoff loss last year to Mt. Lebanon], and that's not good enough. We want to get out of the rut of being a .500 team."

Alexander, who played for the Panthers and graduated from the school in 1996, said his biggest concern following two scrimmages is getting the ball in the back of the net on a more consistent basis.

"Last year, we averaged between 8.5 and 9 goals per game," he said. "We need to average 11 or 12 goals a game. I would say we're not struggling on offense, but we need to find a way to get more balls into the net."

Alexander said the fact that his team played two scrimmages puts his team ahead of where it was a year ago heading into Wednesday's season opener at Division 1, Section 2 rival Fox Chapel.

"This team is more mature than the one we had a year ago," he said. "The seniors have taken ownership of this team, and they are having a lot of internal conversations with the younger players. The kids are listening. They are coachable, and everything is falling into place."

Alexander expects big seasons from junior attack Justin Naugle, senior midfielder Devin Arrigo and junior defenseman Nate Fleck.

There are eight teams in Division 1, Section 2, and there are seven teams in Division 1, Section 1. Regardless, the top four teams in each division qualify for the playoffs, so that makes the playoff fight for teams in Section 2 tougher with one more team contending for a berth.

"There is going to a big challenge for the playoffs," he said. "Last year, we had a couple of tough games against Shady Side Academy and Hampton."

Against the Indians, the Panthers dropped a 7-6 overtime decision, and they dropped an 11-9 game to Hampton. Those were the Panthers' two section losses.

"If we would have done better in those two games, we wouldn't have been playing Mt. Lebanon in the first round," he said.

Not surprisingly, the Blue Devils are Alexander's pick as the WPIAL's top contender this spring.

"[Mt. Lebanon] has a deep feeder program, and every year, they are the team to beat," he said. "That's not a fluke. They have great coaching and a great program."

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