---- — By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- While the area continues to have just four schools (Lewisburg, Mifflinburg, Danville and Selinsgrove) that offer boys lacrosse, the level of play has vastly improved.
"The playing level has gone up exponentially since I played and it is at a point now that most teams have a handful of kids that have experience," Danville head coach Matt Gerdy said. "Having Bucknell (lacrosse) right in our back yard is a big plus as they are very community minded and hold clinics and camp."
Gerdy, who played his college lacrosse at Bloomsburg, started the Danville team in 2004 as a senior for an Eagle Scout project.
"District 4 had just two teams 10 years ago," Gerdy said. "I am surprised that area schools have not picked up. It's kind of a shame as a lot of kids could benefit from it."
Danville was 8-4 last year.
"There were some rough years in 2005 and 2006 and I thought that the program might go by the wayside," he added. "After the first three years, its been a steady growth."
Gerdy is optimistic about this season.
"The seniors this year have had a chance to play at the middle school level and the experience on the team is the highest it's ever been."
Lewisburg is the defending Central Susquehanna Lacrosse League champion.
Third-year head coach Evan Dresser played his lacrosse at Lower Merion High School and then Susquehanna University.
"We did well last year; we played in a PIAA play-in game," he said. "We've been the District 4 champions the last two years. This year, we have several key returnees, but we lost Brian Knicely and PJ Brown, who were pretty experienced on the attack. Nathan Fox is a key returnee for us.
"We need to make sure that our defense doesn't give up any big runs (consecutive goal scoring)," he said of this year's team. "We need to be disciplined on closed defense and mental errors if we want to win districts again. Offensively, we need to get a little more scoring from the midfielders."
Selinsgrove is under the guidance of Tom Garlock, who played his college lacrosse at Franklin & Marshall.
The Seals lost to Lewisburg 9-8 in the district finals last year after taking an early lead in the game.
"The players have to execute well on the field," Garlock said as to a key to winning the district this year.
The Seals have a young team but the offense and defense are well-balanced, according to Garlock.
"We hope to execute well and end the season with an improved record from last year (12-4)," he said. "We hope to build upon this and provide a foundation for upcoming seasons."
Garlock noted the loss in the district final, while disappointing, marked continuing improvement for the Seals program.
Mifflinburg is looking to rebound from a 1-12 season last year under head coach Susan Chlebowski. Chlebowski is the only boys coach not to have played the game.
"I helped to start the team as my son wanted to play," she said. "We got the program going in 2008. I played field hockey and this was a great opportunity as I wanted a positive outlet for my son."
Chlebowski said that she threw herself into it 100 percent and became a student of the game.
"It's getting a little easier after four years, but I am still reading, learning and watching videos to try and help this team get better. We lost some games that we should have won last year."
Two years ago, the team went 6-4.
"We have 17 players and that's a skeleton roster," she added. "We have a positive outlook. Our weakness is that we don't have a deep bench and at least five brand-new players out this year."