Wayne Matsinger has never doubted that the Penncrest boys lacrosse players he’s watched grow through the ranks had the talent to be championship-caliber.
The furthest he’d go is to question whether they would ascend those heights. And the veteran coach had no qualms about lobbing those questions directly at his players, in the hopes that they would result in moments like what they experienced Thursday night.
“The pieces of the puzzle came together this year,” Matsinger proudly announced Thursday after his team banished Radnor, 7-5, to guarantee at least a share of the Central League title. “I’ve been calling these guys out on their heart for two years. We have a lot of talent, but I didn’t know if we had the heart to push us over the top. They brought the heart this year.”
The share of the title is the first for Penncrest since they were outright champions in 2004, another team coached by Matsinger, who earlier this year notched his 200th career win at the school.
Should Penncrest (16-0, 10-0) defeat Conestoga next week to finish a perfect run through the league, they would be the first outright Central League champions from Delco since Springfield in 2010. Even if the Lions lose to Conestoga, Radnor (11-2, 9-1) can do no better than a share of the crown if they beat Marple Newtown and Springfield. Radnor shared the title with Conestoga last year.
Either way, for Penncrest, Thursday’s win represents a major accomplishment and the culmination of years of hard work.
“It’s amazing,” said senior Will Manganiello, who had two goals and an assist against Radnor. “We have 18 seniors, and we’ve been together since sixth grade. We knew we had something special, and it’s crazy that it ends like this.”
The senior presence on the team – and in the win over Radnor – is undeniable. Senior goalie Dylan McCleaft made 11 saves and was phenomenal in the face of constant pressure in the second half. Senior Robert Logan scored goals six and seven in the fourth quarter. Senior FOGO Dylan Protesto had a strong day at the X and added a goal, while classmates Billy Kinnard and Eathan Trusty did major turns of work in midfield. The leader of the defense, an extremely young unit, has been the unflappable Liam O’Donnell.
The chant all year for the group has been “Champions.” After games, huddles, timeouts, anything, the chant choice was aspirational.
Thursday, it became reality.
“It feels great,” McCleaft said. “Been doing it since the beginning of the year, and now that’s it’s the real thing, it feels great.”