The Little Lions refused to surrender Tuesday night — and, thanks to that mind-set, they’re now heading to the next round of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs.
The State College boys’ lacrosse team trailed early but battled back to claim a 7-6 win over Shady Side Academy in the first round of the PIAA playoffs at Cumberland Valley High School’s Toyota Field. The Little Lions will next face Mt. Lebanon on Saturday in the quarterfinals, at a time and place to be determined.
“Sometimes you get punched in the face,” senior Jack Sheehan said, “and you have to get back up.”
State College trailed 3-1 early in the game but rallied right back. The Lady Lions tied the game at 3-3 and then, with less than three minutes left in the first half, Sheehan passed to a waiting freshman Matt Kunes from behind the net — and Kunes found the back of the goal, much to the relief of the cheering crowd.
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The Little Lions never trailed from that point on.
State College’s Ryan Franks padded the lead by securing a hat trick early in the third quarter — he scored two first-half goals — and Luke Vidic scored less than a minute later to hand the local team the 6-3 lead.
Shady Side tried to mount a comeback and brought the game to within one goal with five minutes left. But State College’s opponent couldn’t capitalize on a golden opportunity in the final 10 seconds.
“Give them credit for sticking with it,” Little Lions coach Jeffrey King said. “We didn’t play particularly smart down the stretch, but our defense played pretty tough.”
MVP of the game (State College): Jack Sheehan. The senior was instrumental during State College’s comeback. He missed a great chance to tie the game at 2, but he rebounded well. With two assists within two minutes of each other, State College tied the game and had all the momentum. Sheehan also made a great play late in the third quarter, winning a ground ball and then assisting Brady Dorner.
Turning point of the game: Back-to-back penalties for Shady Side near the end of the second gave State College the opportunity to take the lead — and the Little Lions took advantage. State College scored three unanswered goals as part of its 5-0 run following the penalties.
Play of the game: The Little Lions’ Mike Hraba made a great save with less than 10 seconds left in the first quarter. Shady Side had a clear shot on goal, but Hraba held his ground. The save kept State College within one, and the game would have been a lot different otherwise. Said Hraba: “I had to step it up, and I got that save.”
What’s next: State College is now 13-8 overall this season and will face Mt. Lebanon, the No. 2 seed out of District 7. Mt. Lebanon beat Wilson — the District 3 champs — in an 8-7 game Tuesday. Sheehan said State College is “hungry for revenge” because Mt. Lebanon beat State College in Cumberland Valley last year.