Pioneers Fall to Mars in PIAA Class 2A Semifinal
By Topher Tongel
UNIVERSITY PARK- Another historic run for the Lampeter-Strasburg boys lacrosse team (20-5) came to a close Tuesday afternoon.
The 2022 PIAA 2A Champion Mars Fightin’ Planets (22-2) rallied to defeat the Pioneers 11-7. A strong fourth quarter was the difference as the District 7 champions outscored the District 3 champions 5-0 in the final frame.
The Pioneers came out strong in the first quarter, forcing Mars into a 0-3 hole. Junior KJ Kessler drew first blood for the Pioneers nearly five minutes into the game. Junior Gavin Denlinger would score less than a minute later. Senior attackman Zach Lebrecque capped the run for L-S, forcing Mars to use their first timeout of the half. After several mistakes forced by the aggressive Pioneer defense, Penn State commit Cenzo Grieco finally got Mars on the board from his future home turf.
Kessler would net another two in the opening minutes of the second quarter, putting L-S ahead 5-1. Sophomore attackman Ian Coulter found the back of the net for Mars midway through the second, steadying a 3 goal run. Shortly before the half, Lebrecque would snipe the ball past senior standout goalie Jonathan Grieco. The Pioneers led 6-4 at halftime.
Bob Marcoux and his staff made adjustments for the second half as senior midfielder Jack Dunham opened the half with a Mars goal, cutting the lead to one. Minutes later, NCAA Division I St. Joseph’s commit Colin Sullivan answered for the Pioneers, making it a 7-5 game. This would be the final tally of the season for L-S. A late third quarter goal from Dunham made it a 7-6 game heading into the final frame.
Coulter struck early for the Fightin’ Planets, tying the game at 7. Mars junior attackman Ryan Blake sparked a strong run minutes later, slinging the 5oz rubber ball past NCAA Division II Holy Family commit Bryce Thomas from the top of the box. Mars would go on to score three straight, making it a 10-7 game in Happy Valley. Mars Coach Bob Marcoux called a timeout with just over three minutes left, giving his group a minute to regroup. Mars beat the Pioneer press less than a minute later, putting them up by 4. The Fightin’ Planets outscored the Pioneers 7-1 in the second half, leading their way to an 11-7 victory.
The PIAA District 3 champion Pioneers finished another historic run. Former Kennett Head Coach Mike McConomy has helped the L-S program reach new heights during his three seasons at the helm, helping them to three straight trips to the PIAA 2A tournament, including back to back trips to the final four. The Pioneers will look to continue their success next season as they return star defender Drexton Frank (L-L Section 2 First Team) and offensive standout KJ Kessler (L-L Section 2 Second Team).
The WPIAL champions will defend their title when they face District 1 runner-up Marple Newtown in a rematch of last year's championship game. Marple Newton defeated District I champion West Chester Bayard Rustin 10-6 Tuesday afternoon at Garnet Valley High School. Mars defeated Marple-Newtown 9-6 in last year’s championship contest to become the first team from Western PA to win a PIAA boys lacrosse championship. The game will be played at Panzer Stadium on the campus of Penn State University on Saturday, June 17 at 2:30 p.m.