Dominant is one word to describe the Conestoga boys' lacrosse team. Another is dynamic.
The Pioneers overcame a slow start Tuesday to trounce Manheim Township, 13-4, scoring 11 consecutive goals and limiting the Blue Streaks to few offensive possessions, in a PIAA state semifinal at Governor Mifflin.
"The critical part was we didn't have one offensive possession in the third quarter. They really turned it up in terms of physical play and energy," Manheim Township coach Rich Lefever said.
Nine players scored for the Pioneers, with senior attack Matt Smith, who will play for Lehigh next year, leading the way with three goals and an assist.
Conestoga (23-2) will face La Salle, a 15-4 winner over Seneca Valley, in the state final Saturday in Hershey.
An otherwise quiet and turnover-rife first half ended in excitement for the Pioneers. They scored two goals in seven seconds to take a 4-3 lead with five seconds left in the half.
"They came out with a different defense that we weren't ready for. We had trouble with it in the first half," Smith said.
"We went into halftime, talked about it, made a few changes and adjustments, and came back out ready to play and fired up."
The two quick goals, as well as an impassioned speech at halftime by assistant coach Craig Gratton, shifted momentum and got the Pioneers fired up for the second half.
"I think scoring those two goals, you could just see collectively that their shoulders just dropped a little bit and ours picked up," Conestoga coach Brian Samson said.
The Pioneers started the third quarter with a lot of energy, holding possession and ripping shots off from all distances and angles. They scored six goals in the third quarter, opening the game up, 10-3.
Senior midfielder Ryan Buttenbaum, also headed to Lehigh in the fall, won 15 of 17 overall face-offs, which was key in gaining, and then holding, possession for the Pioneers.
"A lot of those face-offs were not just won by me," Buttenbaum said. "Sure, I pulled the ball out, but guys like Ryan Lord, Brian Dailey, they are picking up the ground balls and really helping us get possession.
"I think the three-on-three battle in the middle really helped us dominate the second half of the game."
The state final will be a repeat of last year's championship game, in which La Salle defeated the Pioneers, 7-3.
"We've got to be prepared to play La Salle. We haven't seen them yet this year, so we are going into the game blind," Samson said.
Said Smith: "We are on a great winning streak right now, and I think if we just keep up the lively spirit I think we'll do great on Saturday."
Manheim Township 1 2 0 1 – 4
Conestoga 2 2 6 3 – 13
Goals: MT-Quint Miller 2, Robby Wertz, Tyler Bradbury; C-Matt Smith 3, Billy Flatley 2, Tanner Scott 2, Austin Rogosky, Jason Klunder, Jeff Chu, Bradlee Lord, Connor Frisina, Ryan Buttenbaum.
Saves: MT-Devon O'Grady 7; C-Pete Zonino 6, John Lopes 2.