Much is expected from the Mt. Lebanon High School boys lacrosse program this spring.
Despite two losses over the weekend to Ohio rivals Worthington Kilbourne and Dublin Jerome, the expectations remained high for a Blue Devils team that returned to its winning ways in WPIAL competition Monday with a 10-2 victory against cross-section rival Hampton to improve its record to 7-4.
Before taking the trip to Central Ohio, the Blue Devils had secured section victories against Sewickley Academy, 5-4, and Central Catholic, 12-8. The victory against Sewickley was a particularly pleasing one for coach Mike Ermer.
"That is our third one-goal [victory] against a quality Western Pennsylvania opponent,:" Ermer said. "We had a one-goal win against North Allegheny [7-6], a one-goal win against Shady Side [5-4] and against Sewickley. In each of those wins, our defense has been the go-to [component].
"Our offense is still jelling after we graduated a lot [from last year]. But they don't ask you how you win; they ask you how many you win at the end of the year."
Ermer said that although the three one-goal wins might have been a bit stressful for him, he views the close games as important lessons for his team.
"It shows the character the guys have as a whole," he said. This [victory over Sewickley] was a character-building win."
At one point, Mt. Lebanon enjoyed a 4-1 lead. But two late goals by the Panthers -- the last coming with six seconds left in the game -- cut the margin to 5-4.
A player key to that victory against Sewickley Academy was Brian Kelly, who had three assists against the Panthers. As a sophomore last season, Kelly was slated to play midfield until Louis Lucerne sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament before the season began, and Kelly was moved to attack.
"He became our second-leading scorer," Kelly said. "He had more than 70 points last year at attack. Louis is back and healthy, so I moved Brian back to midfield. He's [made the transition] seamlessly without any complaints, and he's a team-first guy. He's learned to play defense and take faceoffs, and he's a great role model for the younger kids and the rest of the team."
Kelly has picked up where he left off a year ago offensively with 8 goals and 14 assists. Junior attack Sam White is the team's leading scorer with 15 goals and an assist. Sophomore attack Dan Lee and attack Lucerne -- now a senior -- have 11 goals each, while sophomore midfielder Brian Ward has 10 goals.
With Mt. Lebanon, however, defense and depth will continue to be focal points. On that score, Ermer is confident with his team.
"Our defense is strong, and we returned a lot of guys," he said. "Tim Donoghue and Brian McMullen are senior returners for us, and they really set the tone.
"We have a lot of people we can run in there such as [sophomore] Preston Chamberlin, [junior] Will Witte and [junior] Charlie Cappucci. There are a lot of legs we can throw at [the opposition]. We sometimes win by attrition on the defensive end."