Latrobe boys lacrosse close to full strength heading into playoff rematch with USC
With the WPIAL Class AAA lacrosse tournament starting Monday, Latrobe’s boys team is close to full strength at a good time.
Injuries and illness plagued the Wildcats (9-4) throughout the season. However, they are almost back to 100 percent heading into their battle at Upper St. Clair (8-6).
“I am happy with where we are,” coach Pete Cuda said. “As the season has gone on, we’ve progressively gotten better. We’re playing more as a team, and we’re pretty confident going into the playoffs that we’re prepared and ready. We had some issues with a little bit of illness going around and some injuries and, as a result, struggled through the middle of the season. All those players are back, and we’re probably as healthy as we have been all season.”
Latrobe looks for some redemption against the Panthers. Upper St. Clair rolled past the Wildcats, 16-4, to open the playoffs last year.
“Having played them before, the guys know what to expect,” Cuda said. “When we left that game last year, we felt like we didn’t play our best. Maybe some inexperience got to us, but we knew we should have competed better and made it a better game. The kids are excited to get a second crack at that. And we’re confident we can play with them and win if we come with our ‘A’ game.”
Latrobe’s four losses came to some of the area’s top-ranked teams: Peters Township, Bethel Park, Fox Chapel and Kiski Prep.
“Even though we did lose those games, they were a confidence booster for our kids because we hung with those teams in the first half, and they pulled away in the second half a bit,” Cuda said. “The kids see we can play at that level. We just have to put two halves together and not just one. That’s kind of been the story of our season.”
Up front, senior Marco Cuda and junior Matthew Bobula lead the attack. Cuda has led the team in points all four of his years.
“They have accounted for around 60 percent of our total offense. Since we had some injuries throughout the season, Marco and Matthew had to take on more responsibility,” Pete Cuda said. “Now that we have other players back, we hope there will be more balance in the offense with our attack, and some midfielders can step up and offer some scoring power.”
Senior Luke Stein and junior Colbin Stallings are two midfielders expected to add to the attack.
“Between those two, we’re looking for them to step up and help balance the offensive side of the field,” Pete Cuda said. “Vinny Stallings and Jarred Stein are two solid midfielders that have scoring ability but, more importantly, have stepped up on the defensive side of the field and helped with transition.”
Senior Keith Torrillo plays a key role as the team’s faceoff specialist.
“He has been a very good and strong faceoff guy for us this year. Even against some of the more competitive teams, he has really held his own against some strong faceoff guys,” Pete Cuda said. “We’re really going to be expecting a lot out of him come Monday as well.”
Most of Latrobe’s experience is on defense. Seniors Alex Singley, Paxton Knupp and Duke Snyder join juniors Cole Novak and Adam Snyder on defense. Senior Paul Solomon is the goaltender.
“When we have everyone healthy, defense is one of our stronger areas. They are all back now, and we feel really strong about our defense going into Upper St. Clair,” Pete Cuda said. “That’s really important because our defense does a good job limiting the goals against. We’re not a very deep team. Teams like Upper St. Clair and Peters Township rotate a bunch of kids in, and that puts us a little disadvantage. If we can control things on offense and slow things down and have our defense limit the scoring on that side of the field, that’ll be best.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.