Flashing the gold… Mounts down Carlisle to win first District crown
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Kevin Pletz was soaking it all in.
Standing near the middle of the field Thursday night at Hersheypark Stadium, and fresh off a post-game Gatorade shower, Pletz tried to put into words exactly what he was feeling at that moment.
"It still hasn’t hit me… It’s pretty surreal," he said.
Moments before, the Ephrata boys lacrosse coach saw his team capture its first-ever District Three title with a 6-2 victory over Carlisle in the finals. The Mounts got off to a fast start, opened up a 6-0 lead and then leaned on a rock-solid defense and All-American goalie Brian Neff to become the first boys’ District team champion at EHS since the 1990-91 wrestling squad captured gold.
"I’m just extremely proud of them," Pletz said of his team following the win. "These guys have worked real hard all season to accomplish some of their goals, and a District title was definitely one of them."
The District championship comes after another program first when the Mounts won the L-L League crown for the first time May 12 with a win over Manheim Township in the finals.
"This is total euphoria. I mean incredible," Ephrata senior Tucker Keefer said following Thursday’s monumental victory. "This has been one of our goals since the beginning of the season and it’s just awesome to be standing here right now as District champions. It’s just an amazing feeling and it’s great for the Ephrata community."
And the run now continues as the Mounts head into the State Tournament beginning Wednesday, as the top seed from District Three. The Mounts drew District One third seed Downingtown West in tonight’s opener which will be held at Exeter High School, beginning at 7 p.m.
The Whippets, who were upset by Garnett Valley, 9-4 in the District One semifinals, are one of the top teams in the east and should prove to be a tough challenge. DW is 21-1 and is ranked third in the east in the laxpower.com regional rankings. The Mounts (22-2) are rated eighth.
Back to last Thursday’s contest which was all about the start. Ephrata’s Tyler Sensenig won the game opening draw before Joey Sellers cashed in 31 seconds into the contest when he picked up a loose ball and put it past Carlisle goalie Hunter Barrick to give the Mounts the all-important early lead.
But Ephrata was far from done, opening up a commanding 6-0 advantage by the midway point of the second quarter. Mason Quickel scored five minutes later off a nice feed from Dakota Keefer before Sellers was set up by Nate Muckle for his second goal of the contest to make it 3-0.
Then in the second, the Mounts added a pair of goals from Evan Hornberger before Quickel finished off the 6-0 run with a goal at the 4:38 mark.
"The early momentum definitely helped," Pletz said. "We knew they were a tough team. We knew they were big and athletic, and they were going to come out strong. We got some momentum goals there that really helped us out.
Tucker Keefer, who had two assists on the night, agreed.
"(Getting the early lead) was huge because it alleviated a lot of the pressure," he said. "From then on we could kind of just control the game, run it at our pace. We didn’t have to force anything. They were the ones that were pressing for goals. We scored those early goals, jumped on them big and quick, and then from there we could just settle it down, run our offense, be patient, run our defense without having the stress. It gave us some breathing room."
It was more than enough cushion for Neff and the Ephrata defense, which sat in a tight zone and forced Carlisle to take shots from the outside most of the night. Neff saved 17 shots for the game, but said his defense made it easy for him.
"The defense played so well," he said. "They gave me some good outside shots and it definitely goes out to them. They gave me the shots that I wanted to see."
"We knew that we wanted them to beat us in the zone," he said. "The defense did a great job with it. They forced the outside shots, and Brian is going to save most of those. Pretty much every shot that they took was outside. Brian pretty much ate up everything that came his way."
The Thundering Herd (15-5) finally got on the board with 2:44 to play in the half as Chris Fowler got one past Neff on a nice pass from teammate Max Breschi.
Carlisle added its second goal early in the third quarter as Cody McCoy found the net, but that was it for the offense as both teams tightened defensively and didn’t allow a goal for the rest of the way.
"Ephrata is a very good team and is well-coached," Carlisle Coach Steve Kidder said. "Neff is an All-American, and he was on his game today. We expected a good game. They got the good start that we didn’t get tonight, but we shut them down in the second half, but couldn’t get any past Neff."
"This is awesome," Neff said following the win. "It was definitely my goal since my freshman year. I wanted to play in this game and win it, and to finally achieve that is great."
Many of the Ephrata players and coaches said they were thinking of former Coach Mike Ream, who passed away from a heart attack in 2010.
Ream started the Ephrata program more than a decade ago and built the foundation for what culminated in an L-L League and now District Three championship.
"The head referee told me, ‘Mike would be very proud of you guys,’" Pletz said. "He hit the nail on the head right there. You know Mike’s proud of these guys. They play with a little extra for Mike, which is what I think. This particular senior class was very close to him, and it’s showing with what they are doing this year."
Neff added, "I definitely know he’s looking down and smiling. I know he would want to be a part of this." More MOUNTS, page B-4