Penn Manor vs Cumberland Valley-D3 Boys Lax Semis

Penn Manor's Josh Heckman (25) takes a shot on goal against Cumberland Valley during first half action of a District 3 boys lacrosse semifinal game at Hershey High School Monday May 21, 2018.

Penn Manor has found its next boys lacrosse coach. And he comes from within the family, so to speak, with alum Connor Rowe approved as the Comets’ new skipper last month.

Rowe has been the Penn Manor defensive coordinator since 2016, while also serving as the program’s youth coordinator to build up the ranks at the lower levels.

“It was absolutely a no-brainer,” Rowe said when asked about initially applying to the vacancy. “Our team and players we currently have. ...they’ve done everything we have ever asked as coaches. I was eager to return the favor and do anything I could for them.”

In his playing days, Rowe was an Lancaster-Lebanon League all-star, scoring a pair of goals in Penn Manor’s first District 3-3A playoff win in 2011. He went on to become an all-conference short-stick defensive midfielder at Elizabethtown College, where he played for assistant Rich Lefever, the former longtime highly-successful Manheim Township coach.

Rowe is part of an athletic family, as dad Dudley is a former Slippery Rock basketball player, mom Joann is a former E-town College volleyball standout and brother Ben is a former Penn Manor golf and basketball standout.

Connor Rowe, 28, immediately got into coaching after graduating from E-town in 2015.

“I wasn’t ready to walk away from the team atmosphere,” he said. “I started over at Penn Manor, and realized very quickly the difference we can make in the lives of student-athletes. Watching them grow into young men has been the most rewarding thing.”

Rowe currently works full-time for Fulton Bank. He replaces Penn Manor alum Zack Charles as the Comets’ coach. Charles was selected by L-L coaches as the Section One Coach of the Year in 2021 after the Comets placed third in the L-L standings and nearly reached the District 3-3A semifinals, falling to Cumberland Valley, 7-6, in the final seconds of a quarterfinal round loss, finishing 13-6 overall record. Those six losses came against four playoff teams (Cumberland Valley, Hempfield, Lampeter-Strasburg, Manheim Township) - three of them competed in the state tournament. 

Penn Manor finished with a plus-.500 record in each of the four seasons under Charles, going a combined 45-28, which included three district playoff appearances and one L-L tournament appearance. He steered the Comets to their only District 3-3A semifinals appearance in 2018.

The Comets could make an argument for consistently being the league’s third-best team over the last few seasons, as they continue a climb they hope results in eventually topping stalwarts Hempfield and Manheim Township.

“We’re close,” Rowe said. “We’re practicing right now this fall and we’ve never had such a strong turnout. The goal would be to just jump one of those teams.”

Next spring, the Comets will return sophomore goalkeeper Nick Hollinger (163 saves), L-L Section One first-team all-star defender Connor Brumbaugh and five of their eight top scorers: senior attack Isaic Nafziger (29 goals, 31 assists), senior midfielder Erik Hinkle (2021 L-L Section One first-team all-star, 19 goals, 31 assists), senior midfielder Dylan Keene (16 goals, six assists), junior midfielder Eli Warfel (14 goals, three assists), junior attack Benedict Flinchbaugh (10 goals, eight assists). Defenders Tyler Smith, Charlie Gonzalez and Mike Evans will also return, as the Comets add in Thor Martin, a transfer from New England who Rowe expects to be among the players in the L-L next season.

Penn Manor will also have a coaching staff made up of former college players.

Asked what a Rowe-coached team looks like, he responded, “When you play Penn Manor, you’re going to play a team that’s relentless, will leave it all out on the field and play the game the right way.”

Cougar girls: The Lancaster Country Day/Lancaster Catholic girls lacrosse program is still in search of a new head coach.

Julie Safran, a Penn Manor alum, coached the Cougars the last two seasons, going a combined 17-18 overall with a pair of District 3-2A playoff appearances, including a district quarterfinal appearance in 2019.

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