A year ago, the Franklin Regional High boys lacrosse team limped home with a 9-9 record. The Panthers started out quite nicely, winning their first six games, which included a 7-6 overtime victory over North Allegheny, which finished sixth in Laxpower.com's final rankings, but failed to make the WPIAL playoffs.
Then, the Panthers went into a horrible tailspin, losing seven games in a row, including successive 8-7 losses to Thomas Worthington of Ohio and Pine-Richland. They also lost to Shady Side Academy (7-4), No. 2 Mt. Lebanon (9-6), No. 1 Seneca Valley (12-6) and No. 3 Sewickley Academy 15-4.
Despite that skid, the Panthers qualified for the WPIAL playoffs, where they lost to Mt. Lebanon, 11-5, in the quarterfinals.
The Panthers were the only Eastern area team to qualify for the WPIAL Division I tournament. Three teams (Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair and Peters Township) were from the South. The rest (WPIAL champion Seneca Valley, Sewickley Academy, Pine-Richland and Shady Side Academy) were from the North.
Franklin Regional will have a new coach this season. Former player and 2012 junior varsity head coach Dave Alexander has succeeded Chris Stiles. The Panthers are jumping into the season with a road trip to the Eastern part of the state where they met Easton High on Friday and Nazareth on Saturday. Out of 84 schools in their region, Nazareth was ranked 29th with a 13-7 record, and Easton was ranked 44th in 2012 with an 8-11 record. The Panthers then host non-section rival Sewickley Academy on April 1.
Central Catholic is the other team from the Eastern region that competes on the Division I level. The Vikings finished 2012 with an 8-7 record, but found themselves finishing fifth in a section dominated by traditional powers Mt. Lebanon, Sewickley Academy, Upper St. Clair and Peters Township. All four of those teams won 10 or more games, and all had a section record that was .500 or better. Central was 2-4 against section foes.
Division II: Is this the year Greensburg Central Catholic finally breaks through in the WPIAL Division II tournament?
Centurions coach Mike Evans certainly hopes so.
For three of the past four seasons, Greensburg Central has advanced to the WPIAL Division II championship game. Standing in the way each time, though, was the Hampton Talbots. And the Talbots were holding the gold trophy with victories in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons with victories over the Centurions by margins of 13-9, 14-11 and 16-7.
There certainly will be a change this year, however, as the Talbots have relocated into Division I. The Centurions finished 2012 ranked No. 16 in Laxpower.com's Western regional rankings. Only Hampton had a higher ranking at No. 7.
Greensburg Central will face several new opponents this year in Division II, Section1. Gateway and Meadville are new section rivals joining Indiana Area, Taylor Allderdice and Westmoreland County foes Latrobe and Norwin.