North Xtra: Pine-Richland yells claim as WPIAL threat

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During the course of a Pine-Richland High School boys lacrosse game, there is an unmistakable cacophony that permeates the field from the Rams' sideline.

It's the sound of a coach calling out a play to the players on the field, quickly followed by the 50-some players not in the game repeating the coach's wishes to the players on the field.

"That's called an echo," said Austin Hughes, a junior attack from Pine, who is one of the team's six co-captains "It's part of the team effort."

And it's something that first-year coach Rob Marasti brought with him after a fine playing career at Mt. Lebanon High School and Robert Morris University.

"That's something that was enforced back at Mt. Lebanon and on into college at Robert Morris," Marasti said. "It was definitely enforced on both of those teams. Lacrosse [is played on] a big field, so it's not like the guys are right next to you, so you want to make sure the communication is on point and they can hear you out there.

"We talk about it all the time. No matter if it's our star player scoring a goal or the last guy on the bench, we talk about a team atmosphere. We can only accomplish success with the whole team involved. Those little things like an echo call show how important our whole team is to our wins.

"It's not just the guys putting the ball in the back of the net or saving them from going in, it's everyone."

So far, the vocal sideline and the accomplishments of the players on the field had yielded a 9-2 record after Monday's 8-4 victory at Division 2 Baldwin. The Rams sat atop the Division 1 Section 2 standings with a 4-0 record. The Rams were scheduled to play host to section rival Fox Chapel on Wednesday.

The Rams already have matched their victory total from a year ago when they finished 8-6 and did not qualify for the WPIAL Division 1 playoffs. Scott Wilden, a junior midfielder from Pine and another co-captain, said a new attitude has permeated this team.

"Last year, we played as individuals," Wilden said. "This year, it's much more of a team.It's a brotherhood, and we have a better attitude."

There also is plenty of balance. Seven players have scored more than 10 points this season heading into Monday's game. Wilden led the way with 28 points on 15 goals and 13 assists.

Junior midfielder Bryan Newcamp was next with 20 points coming on 12 goals and 8 assists, and senior midfielder Robby Fetterman and junior attack each had scored 14 points. Fetterman had 10 goals and 4 assists, while Kennedy had 13 goals and 1 assist.

Wilden said the balance is no accident.

"We run plays and look for a shot and then pass, and usually it's open," he said. "It doesn't matter [if the other team knows what we're doing]. We're still going to put the ball in the net."

Since a 15-3 loss to Eastern Pennsylvania power Manheim Township, the Rams have won six games in a row, and limited their opponents to seven or fewer goals in all six games -- an average yield of 5.8 goals per game while offensively averaging about 8.2 a game.

Another co-captain, senior goalie Zach Skirpan of Pine, said he and the team's defenders have tried to force opponents away from the net.

"We want to force teams to take outside shots," he said. "That's why we run a slide package to keep [opponents'] shots to the outside."

But the one constant through season has been the team's loud and persistent echo of the coach's calls on the sideline.

"This shows that our bench is focused for an hour of a game and paying attention and listening to me word for word," Marasti said. "I don't have to stand reciting to them. They are focused on me and what I'm saying, and they are echoing it back. Their timing is on point, and they do a very good job to help us win."

For the Pine-Richland Rams, the sound of the echo has been the sound of success.

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