Deer Lakes boys’ next goal: A PIAA victory
After firing more than two dozen shots without one finding the back of the net in a WPIAL semifinal loss, Deer Lakes felt some measure of relief to see Michael Sullivan’s attempt find its home early in the Class AA consolation game.
And then the Lancers just kept adding on. A.J. Dorman tallied a hat trick, and Devin Murray and Ronan Renter added one apiece. Even defender Nick Caro got in on the action, scoring Deer Lakes’ final goal in a 7-1 victory over Charleroi that cemented a spot in the PIAA Class AA tournament.
“Having a good outing earlier in the week and we couldn’t get one in the back of the net, to get one early and be able to score a few more as the game went on was a huge thing for our confidence,” said Sullivan, a sophomore.
The rout of Charleroi, coming on the heels of a 1-0 loss to Shady Side Academy, did more than put Deer Lakes (18-1-1) into the state playoffs -- the team will open against District 10 champion Fairview at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Dollinger Field in Erie -- for the first time. It also showed the Lancers’ ability to respond to adversity.
“It was a nice step, a do-or-die situation,” coach Jordan Wiegand said. “We knew we were really going to have to see this team’s (character), what they were made of. They responded. We were frustrated we couldn’t get any goals against Shady Side, so they went out, they were hungry and took care of it.”
Deer Lakes also put its depth -- particularly its scoring depth -- on display.
Charleroi featured the WPIAL’s leading goal scorer in Cullin Woytovich, who scored his 50th of the season in the consolation game. Deer Lakes’ offense doesn’t have such a headliner, but it does feature several players who can score consistently.
Six players have scored Deer Lakes’ 16 goals this postseason, led by Dorman with five; Renter, Sullivan and Ryan Rodgers with three apiece; and Caro and Devin Murray each with one.
That type of depth means defenses can’t key on any one Deer Lakes player. Instead, the Lancers focus on possession and finding the open man.
“We’re all pretty close, looking at the statistics in goals, between me, (Sullivan) and Colton (Spence),” Dorman said. “It makes a nice team atmosphere, knowing that we can share in the glory of scoring. It’s not just all put on one particular scorer. It’s not just one guy who’s kind of carrying the team.”
That teamwork has helped carry Deer Lakes to the best season in school history, including the first state playoff appearance in school history.
“You can really tell we’ve grown over the last year,” Sullivan said. “We’ve really come together as a whole, and there’s a lot bigger family atmosphere than there was last year. I credit that to our seniors for getting us to buy in to our main goal at the beginning of the season.”
Deer Lakes has just three seniors in Caro, goalkeeper Jesse Greyshock and forward Michael Rothrauff, and Caro and Greyshock are the lone senior starters. The Lancers rely on underclassmen everywhere else, particularly for their scoring punch.
“We needed a lot of guys to step up,” Wiegand said. “You’re going to rely on a lot of younger guys to hopefully become seasoned rather quickly. It was nice to see the leadership that they were able to have, along their overall play. They just keep developing.”
The next test comes Tuesday for Deer Lakes, and the Lancers hope they can pass this one with the flying colors they did against Charleroi.
“I think we found a challenge, and we all kind of rose up to meet the standards of the challenge and accomplish it,” Dorman said.