ADAMS TWP — Many people involved with the Mars boys lacrosse program had their eyes on the future, even after the 2013 season began.
They are now focused on the present.
In the program’s first season of varsity competition, the Planets are 7-5 overall. Mars will travel to Quaker Valley today and, with both teams being a perfect 4-0 in section play, the outcome will decide the Division 2, Section 3 title.
Whether they win or lose against the Quakers, the Planets are playoff-bound.
“I thought we’d win a few games, but mostly, I was just looking for all of us to learn the game and grow as a team,” said junior midfielder Ethan Lewis. “It’s great when you are able to surprise people. I think it says a lot that we made the playoffs in our first year.”
“With it being our first season, we don’t want to measure success by how many victories we have and we are trying to stick to that,” said Planet coach Justin Karam. “But it sure is nice to win.”
The Planets were dealt a rude awakening to WPIAL lacrosse, losing their first game to Greensburg Central Catholic, an established program, 14-2, April 3. But five days later, Mars rebounded in a big way, defeating Gateway in double overtime 9-8 at the Mars Athletic Complex. Freshman attacker Zac Sicher scored the winning goal, giving the Planets their first victory.
“A lot of our youth players were there to see that,” said Karam. “After Zac scored, the youth players ran onto the field. It was a unique moment.”
Section wins over Vincentian Academy, Shaler, North Hills and Aquinas Academy followed, setting the stage for the showdown with Quaker Valley.
The Planets already feel at home at the MAC, thanks to support from friends and family.
“We’ve had a good turnout for home games,” said Lewis. “I wasn’t expecting this much support so soon.”
While most of the players on this year’s team are freshmen, the Planets do have a bit of varsity experience in senior attacker Will King, who played for the varsity team at Pittsburgh Central Catholic as a freshman and suited up for Shady Side Academy the last two seasons.
“I think the younger players have adjusted well to the quality of play,” King said. “They have adapted to the speed of the varsity game and at this point in the season, every part of our game seems to be coming together and flowing as one.”
King leads the team with 32 goals, Blake Thompson has added 31 goals and Owen Vasbinder has contributed to the Planet cause with eight goals and 12 assists.
Though the Planets have surprised many this season, Karam knows there is room for improvement.
“We had stick skills to start the season, but we are still a work in progress,” he said. “We’re getting by without everything being where it needs to be.
“At the varsity level, our guys are learning they can’t just run through people and score anymore.”
But the players want to get better, which is half the battle.
“There’s a lot of communication on the field,” said freshman goalie Pat Morrow. “We’ve been working on that a lot and it is helping us improve.”
For the last several years, youth teams were the lone outlet for boys lacrosse players in the district. Elementary and middle school players now have a next level to strive for.
“We have a lot of talent in the seventh and eighth grades,” said Karam. “And with the varsity team, we are not losing a whole lot to graduation.”