Two of the more solid WPIAL Division 2 boys lacrosse teams met in a game played April 7 at Quaker Valley.
By the time the match was over, the host Quakers had rolled to a 17-3 victory against Greensburg Central Catholic, a team that has competed in three of the past five WPIAL Division 2 championships, and currently is ranked No. 21 in Laxpower.com's ratings for all boys teams in Western Pennsylvania, regardless of classification.
"They are a very good team with some very good players," Greensburg Central coach Mike Evans said of the Quakers, currently ranked No. 2 in the ratings. "But I told [Quaker Valley coach] Mike Marcotte that if we meet again, it will be a different game."
Evans isn't so bold to proclaim a Centurions victory the next time the two teams play, but he believes the return of several key players could make a big difference for his team and make it a much closer game.
"We were missing sophomore midfielder Brad Caric, who was injured in that game and was out for the past four games with a hamstring injury, and junior midfielder Nick Frank, who has been out the whole season after suffering a concussion during hockey season. With those two guys healthy, we hope to be able to qualify for the playoffs."
Caric and Frank rejoin a team that is solid defensively, and has several offensive threats. Key to that defense is senior defenseman Nick Benjamin.
"He anticipates things very well, and I haven't had a player like that in the 11 years I've been coaching this team," Evans said.
Another key defender is Jimmy Stunja, one of three seniors on the team. Three juniors -- defenders Tim Szekely and Joey Tritschler and goalie Zach Ringling -- are also huge in Evans' defensive alignment.
Going into Wednesday's game at Norwin, the Centurions were 4-4. Through seven games, they were paced offensively by junior midfielder Barrett Naugle with 16 goals and 4 assists and junior attack Will Croker, who had 11 goals and 3 assists.
Evans said the road to the playoffs is a tough one for any team competing in Division 2. That's one reason why he scheduled four games against Division 1 opponents and one against Kiski Prep, a private college prep school that is ranked No. 4 out of 22 Pennsylvania prep school teams. The Centurions lost to the Cougars, 11-0. Evans believes the experience was a good one for his young team even with the double-digit defeat.
"That's a good team, and we felt we had nothing to lose playing them," he said. "I told my players to pay attention to how they do things fundamentally, even down to the way they hold their sticks, how they move to the ball and how they move their feet."
Those points are crucial for a team that has just 22 players, most of whom have never played the game before entering the high school as freshmen.
Evans has a similar feeling to scheduling Division 1 opponents Central Catholic, Shady Side Academy, Hampton and Fox Chapel Area. The Centurions lost to Central, 10-5. They'll meet Shady Side and former Division 2 rival Hampton later this month and close out the season against Fox Chapel.
"When you play 'up,' the game is faster," he said. "The game is played at a faster tempo, and when you get back to Division 2, you are used to the faster pace, and it helps you. Playing those Division 1 teams helps you to become game-aware."
Evans said his team reached out to the Franklin Regional squad following the stabbing incident at the school on April 9.
"Lacrosse is a very close sport, and all of the teams reached out to the Franklin Regional team," he said.
"Our team and their team have combined to form a travel team [in the offseason]. The lacrosse community takes care of each other."