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Lampeter-Strasburg's Cole Gerz (46) works against the defense of Garden Spot's Ron Davis (8) on Monday, March 27, 2017.

Up top is the overview of the Lancaster-Lebanon League boys lacrosse scene heading into the 2017 season. If you came here for the team-by-team previews, those are the bottom if you feel like jumping down there. Happy lacrosse season...

All expectations heading into this year’s Lancaster-Lebanon League boys lacrosse season was that Hempfield seriously appeared as if it might give Manheim Township a run for its money. Then Black Knights’ senior superstar Colby Smith, an Ohio State commit who is arguably among the league’s best, went down with a season-ending injury before the season even began.

So things have changed dramatically for Hempfield. So, too, has the outlook for the L-L. While powerhouse Manheim Township (12-0 league, 23-4 overall last season) now appears like the league (and a likely District 3) front-runner once again, the remaining three spots for the four-team L-L tournament in May are up for grabs.

While Hempfield (11-1, 12-8) will always have the solid fundamentals and stick skills to present trouble for opponents, L-L teams like Warwick (8-4, 10-6), Lampeter-Strasburg (10-2, 16-4), Cocalico (1-11, 2-15), Penn Manor (4-8, 5-12) and Lancaster Country Day/Lancaster Catholic (5-7, 6-12) will all welcome the challenge to make some noise.

Warwick and L-S have expectations to be in post-season contention again despite having key pieces gone to graduation, while Cocalico, Penn Manor and LCD/LCHS have the potential and confidence to take giant leaps forward this year after unimpressive 2016 campaigns.

Conestoga Valley (2-15, 1-11), Elizabethtown (8-8, 7-5), Ephrata (2-15, 2-10) and Garden Spot (10-7, 8-4) appear to be building for the future while Cedar Crest (6-6, 6-11) sounds like it has the talent to achieve the program’s first winning season. It’s also worth noting here there will be one less league game for each team since Lancaster Mennonite wasn’t able to find enough players to field a team this spring.

Players to watch: Players back this season after receiving all-star or honorable mention accolades last year are Manheim Township junior midfielders Grayson Sallade and Zach Diamond, junior keeper Caton Johnson, sophomore attack Sean Curcio and sophomore long-stick midfielder Will Hurley, Hempfield sophomore midfielder Matthew Heuston and junior defensive midfielder Mark Himmelsbach, Warwick junior defender Mitchell Weaver, senior defender Tyler Gerhart,  senior attack Joshua Croyle and senior defensive midfielder Ryan Deibler, Ephrata senior attack Dustin Fisher and senior defender Mason Klaus, E-town senior midfielder Charlie Alessi, CV long-stick senior midfielder Kyle Houser, Lancaster Country Day junior long-stick midfielder Matt Lane and Cocalico keeper and four-year starter Ben Puodziunas.

New coaches: Cedar Crest (Will Folk), Conestoga Valley (Sean Wambaugh), Garden Spot (Max Rey), L-S (Guy Hornig) and Penn Manor (Zach Charles) all have first-year head coaches leading the way.

New classification setup: This will be discussed more in-depth later in the season, but this is the first year the PIAA is going from a one-classification to a two-classification system in lacrosse. What does that mean for L-L teams? Cocalico, Ephrata, Garden Spot, L-S and LCD/LCHS are in 2A, while everyone else remains in the largest classification (3A).

That’s good news for the 2A schools, as they’ll now have a better chance in post-season play, at least in the district playoffs, where they’ll avoid traditional lacrosse powers like Manheim Township, Hempfield, Wilson, Cumberland Valley and Carlisle. Hershey, qualifiers of the district semifinals each of the previous three years in a one-classification system - now looks like the early power in 2A. Cocalico, L-S and LCD/LCHS all have the potential to achieve District 3 playoff berths this season, so this new setup will certainly help them if they get there.

Here's your team-by-team previews....

Cedar Crest:

Coach: Will Folk (first season)

Last year’s record: 6-6 league, 6-11 overall

Top players lost: attack Michael Weaver, mid Stephen Roda

Top players returning: att Mitch Tice, att Hunter Craig, att John Lux, mid Colin May, mid Ray Moore

Outlook: Weaver and Roda accounted for about half of the Falcons’ offensive output last season. Both are gone to graduation. So Tice, Craig and Lux will take on even more prominent roles in the attack this season, as new coach Folk believes this group has the makeup to potentially achieve the program’s first winning record: “We have a talented group of kids that have the desire to win but understand the only way we will be successful is if we play together.”

Cocalico:

Coach: Matt Oberly (fifth season)

Last year’s record: 1-11 league, 2-15

Top players lost: D Caleb Hooper

Top players returning: senior GK Ben Puodziunas, senior mid Bryce Shaffer, junior attack Owen Zimmerman, junior midfielder Nick Harbst, senior mid Dan Rennix

Outlook: All but one starter returns for Cocalico, including one of the league’s top goalkeepers and fourth-year starter Ben Puodziunas. But those are starters from a 2-15 team. So what should we expect from this group? After taking their lumps last season, Oberly is challenging his bunch for a top-five finish in the L-L, “It may seem audacious given our record last year, but I expect this team to make a run at qualifying for league and district playoff spots. The kids have high expectations for themselves and I believe their expectations are justified.”

Conestoga Valley:

Coach: Sean Wambaugh (first year)

Last year’s record: 1-11 league, 2-15 overall

Top players lost: att Peyton Chadwick, Isaiah Monger, Zach Bowman

Top players returning: senior LSM Kyle Houser, senior GK Chris Mousely

Elizabethtown:

Coach: Allen Shissler (third year)

Last year’s record: 7-5 league, 8-8 overall

Top players lost: def Kyle Orendorff, mid Tom Poulos, GK Jake Koser, Tyler McDonald, Derek Swift

Top players returning: sr attack Charlie Alessi, soph mid Matt Pottgeiser, junior mid Cole Baker, sr def Ben Rivera, jr att Isaiah Shickley, sr att Adam Weissend, sr def Nick Schmidt

Outlook: Koser is gone in the net. Ditto for last year’s top-three scorers Poulous, Swift and McDonald - a trio that accounted for more than 60 percent of the offense in 2016. But E-town has five returning starters back for third-year coach Shissler: “We have a positive outlook this year and have a good group of guys that have bought into what we are teaching. They gel well together, play well as a team and we hope for good things to happen this year.”

Ephrata:

Coach: Mike O’Donnell (first year)

Last year’s record: 2-10 league, 2-15 overall

Top players lost: Ryan Holochuck, Tim Moore

Top players returning: senior att Dustin Fisher, senior def Mason Klaus, senior att Carter Cammauf, junior mid Noah Roark

Outlook: Ephrata is under new leadership with first-year coach Mike O’Donnell, who will look to returners Fisher, Klaus, Cammauf and Roark to lead the way and improve on last year’s two-win mark. Fisher, Cammauf, Mason Sensenig and Kyle Raudenbush will lead the attack, Roark, Bryson Rhee, Dylan Lindberg, Caden Keefer, Cody Mountz and Duncan Welch will hold down the midfield, and Klaus, Ryan Sheaffer, Ryan Roos and Tucker Parmer will defend the Ephrata net in front of keepers Brad Horst or Ethan Moyer. Long-stick midfielder duties will go to Corbin Weaver and Tyler Walton. O’Donnell: “We have a young, talented, core group of players who have injected the program with a sense of optimism and passion. We are looking forward to playing a few new opponents, and also look forward to the games that will take place against our L-L foes. At the end of the day, we look to improve as a team by the beginning of May, and let the wins and losses take care of themselves.”

Garden Spot:

Coach: Max Rey (first year)

Last year’s record: 8-4 league, 10-7 overall (Program-best wins mark, first winning season, L-L tournament qualifier was program’s first post-season berth

Top players lost: LSM Jacob Mast, mid Cory Hurst, mid Derrick Esh, mid Eric Kurtz, midfielder, def Jared Rider, GK Jon Kauffman, mid Daniel Yost, att Ben Groff, Santiago Escobar

Top players returning: jr att/mid Clayton Dimon, sr mid Steven Reimold, sr def Tyler Roth

Outlook: Coming off a history-making season that included the most single-season wins and the first post-season appearance, Garden Spot has since undergone a facelift. New coach Max Rey takes over as the head man, and inherits a youthful roster with just four seniors. Jesse Mast, Owen Reich, Kyle McHugh and Benton Moyer will be on the attack, while returners Clayton Dimon and Steven Reimold will lead the midfield alongside newcomers Carter Combs and Zeb Fisher. With returning face-off Dylan Klemas now instead out for the year with an injury, Gavin Kauffman will take over duties thre. Saverio Crivelli, Brett Blankley, Dylan Nichols and Jakob Ellsworth will be at defense, fronting keeper Seth Strausser. Rey: “I have no doubt in my mind that our sophomores and freshmen will step up and fill the roles in our line up. I am hoping to place in the middle of the LL, we are not a powerhouse but not a team to be taken lightly.”

Hempfield:

Coach: Jeremy Adams (third year at Hempfield, previously head coach at E-town from 2009 to 2014)

Last year’s record: 11-1 league, 12-8 overall (L-L League regular season runner-up, District Three qualifier)

Top players lost: att Dylan Bryan, F-O Grant Williams, GK Cole Simmons, mid Will Blair, mid Jon Seagers, att Chris Brogan, att Colby Smith

Top players returning: soph att Cameron Aksu, sr GK Tanner McAlpine, soph mid Matthew Heuston, soph mid Kohl Wesner, jr def Mark Himmelsbach

Outlook: The Black Knights were expected to contend for an L-L crown and beyond this season until Ohio State commit Colby Smith, among the league’s best players, went down with a season-ending injury before the season even began. Couple that with last year’s second-leading scorer Dylan Bryan already gone to graduation and things have changed dramatically for Hempfield, as third-year coach Adams now turns to Aksu and Heuston, a duo that’s coming off a strong 2016 campaign. Adams will also have to find a replacement for face-off Grant Williams. Then again, Hempfield did face-off-by-committee in last year’s post-season after Williams went out with injury, and appeared to have some viable candidates in that department. McAlpine will likely take over full-time duties in the net after splitting reps with Simmons last season.

Lampeter-Strasburg:

Coach: Guy Hornig (first year)

Last year’s record: 10-2, 16-4 (L-L tourney runner-up, District 3 quarterfinalist - program’s first District 3 playoff win)

Top players lost: att Nate Patterson, def Chase Pirozzi, FO/mid Teddy Mazaheri, att Alex Knarr, GK Marco Peticca, mid Trevor King

Top players returning: sr att Tyler Zameroski, mid Patrick McClain, soph mid/att Noah Patterson, mid Dawson Albright, def Gaige Barber, def Evan Portrey

Outlook: L-S lost 19 seniors from last year’s history-making squad, now needing to find replacements for its top-four scorers, including the do-it-all All-American Mazaheri and four-year keeper Peticca, along with a few other pieces. But the cabinet is not bare for first-year coach Hornig, who will lean on Zameroski (D-II Seton Hill commit) and Noah Patterson in the attack and McClain and Albright in the midfield, while Barber (D-III Wilkes commit) and Portrey hold things down defensively. All six are returning starters. McClain will take over face-off duties, while Bryce Roberts and Hunter Hornig will see action as long-stick midfielders. The keeper spot was still up for grabs heading into the opener. Coach Hornig hopes the balance of some experience and some fresh faces eventual blends together as the players and new coaching staff adjust to new personalities and terminologies: “Like most teams, the big key for us will be whether or not we can remain healthy over the long haul. If we can, we should see some success in the L-L this year.”

Lancaster Country Day/Lancaster Catholic:

Coach: Zach Lombardo (second year)

Last year’s record: 5-7 league, 6-12 overall

Top players lost: GK Parker Ross, Niall Bailey, Thomas Schletic, Nolan Wherley

Top players returning: jr LSM Matt Lane, jr att Joe Loiseau, jr att Devin McMahon, soph Luke Walling, jr Mike Nicklaus, jr Peyton Snopek, soph Noah Wolfe, sr Spencer Haiges

Outlook: The Cougars improved by three wins in league play and two wins overall in 2016 under first-year coach Zach Lombardo. Back for Year Two, Lombardo has a young but experienced bunch to work with: “We are very young but our junior and sophomore class have had a lot of varsity experience that will help benefit our growth this year.”

Manheim Township:

Head Coach: Dan Lyons (second season)

Last year's record: 12-0 League, 23-4 Overall (L-L League regular season and tournament champions, District 3 Runner-Up, PIAA semifinalist)

Top players lost: att Dylan Speitel, att Reagan Ketchum, def Parker Wolf, def Tate Hutchinson, def Gianni Raineri, F-O/Mid Aaron Kager, Mid Chris Rivera, def mid Grant Murray, Gk Jack Braswell

Top players returning: sr mid Hogan Glick, jr GK Caton Johnson, jr mid Zach Diamond, jr mid Grayson Sallade, jr att/mid Owen Miller, jr def Kyle Lando, jr def Dan Klotz, soph att Sean Curcio, soph LSM Will Hurley, soph mid Bryce Hutchinson

Outlook: The Blue Streaks are coming off a highly successful 2016 campaign, but will need to find leadership and new contributors at key positions after the departure of a strong senior class. Among the losses to graduation were team leaders in goals and total points (Speitel, Ketchum), starting face-off specialist (Kager, 72 percent), and top two close defenders (Tate Hutchinson, Wolf). The cupboard is not bare, however, as midfield scoring threats Sallade, Diamond, Miller, and Glick all return, while sophomore Bryce Hutchinson will see an expanded role in the offense, and Curcio returns to quarterback the attack unit. Defensively, University of North Carolina commit Caton Johnson is back in goal for the third year in a row, joined by long-stick midfielder Will Hurley, and close defenders Kyle Lando and Dan Klotz, all of whom contributed significant minutes in 2016. Face-off duties will be a critical void to fill in Kager's absence, but sophomore Nicolas Gutierrez and a host of other underclassmen are vying for that role. Expect to see some freshmen contributors step into the mix as well, with a large and talented Class of 2020 joining the fold in Neffsville. Additionally, several new faces have joined the coaching staff, with former Penn Manor head coach Kenny Snyder and Manheim Township/Franklin & Marshall product Jay Ridinger.

Penn Manor:

Coach: Zach Charles (first year)

Last year’s record: 4-8 league, 5-12 overall

Top players lost: mid Bennett Manning, def mid RJ Swisher, def mid Will Forrey

Top players returning: def mid Joey Barbusca, att Connor Black, def mid Tony Dandridge Jr, att Mason Garcia, def Ian Hank, mid Josh Heckman, mid Garrett Morgan, mid Reed Morrison, def Riley Neuman, mid Justin Schaefer, def Billy Briegel, GK Seth Wilton

Outlook: Garcia and Black are back at the attack, where they’ll be joined by former midfielder Aiden Mahoney. Morgan moves from attack to midfield, where he’ll team up with Schaefer and sophomore Josh Heckman. But the strong suit for the Comets will be along the back line with the returns of keeper Wilton and defenders Hank, Briegel and Neuman. So although Penn Manor is a bit young, there’s plenty of experience for new coach Charles: “Our defense will be what wins us games with one of the top goalies in the area. But we need to learn to win again, which is something that we are working on everyday in practice.”

Warwick:

Coach: Wayne Hummer (fifth year)

Last year’s record: 8-4 league, 10-6 overall

Top players lost: def mid Tyler Bogda, mid Allen Wenger, att Ben Loose, mid Connor Kilgore, GK Steven Lipko, Def Zach Young, LSM Mark Howland

Top players returning: sr def Mitchell Weaver, sr def Tyler Gerhart, sr att Joshua Croyle, sr def mid Ryan Deibler, sr def mid Kyle Weaver ,sr att Connor Brechbill, sr mid Evan Crawford, jr att Corey Snyder

Outlook: Fifth-year Coach Wayne Hummer says every year his team’s goal is to make the post-season and compete for a league championship. The Warriors narrowly missed out on doing so last spring, but showed glimpses of being able to play at a high level. Hummer says this year’s bunch has a good mix of veteran leaders and athletic, young players on both sides of the ball. Returning to the Warriors starting lineup are senior attacks Joshua Croyle and Connor Brechbill, senior midfielder Evan Crawford and defensive midfielder Ryan Deibler, and senior defenders Mitchell Weaver and Tyler Gerhart. They’ll be joined by newcomers Caleb Davis and Corey Snyder on attack, Adam Doddgs and Luke Hirtzel at midfield, Kyle Weaver at defensive midfield, Christian Springer and Jake McCracken as long-stick midfielders, Chad Boyer on defense and Josiah Jewell in the net. Hummer: “There is a lot of potential on this team and if we can come together and focus on constant improvement, we could surprise some teams, finish in the top 4 of the league and make districts.”

Thanks for reading!