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Boys Lacrosse: Piper dishes Mavericks past Eagles in playoff opener

Colin Piper kept encountering the same scenario.

His Manchester Valley boys lacrosse teammates were finding openings near the net. So Piper kept passing, racking up one assist after the next.

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Piper had seven assists in Manchester Valley's 9-6 win over Francis Scott Key in a Class 2A-1A West Section 1 quarterfinal.

The Mavericks (7-6) will travel to top-seeded Liberty (15-0) at 6 p.m. Friday.

Manchester Valley will be trying to avenge a 6-3 loss to Liberty in the regular season April 12.

While serving as the quarterback of Manchester Valley's attack, Piper attracted plenty of attention from the Francis Scott Key defense. When he left his spot behind the cage, a long-pole defender was waiting for him.

Rather than settle for poor-angle shots, he got innovative, flipping passes any way possible to open teammates. And the assists kept coming. Piper is Manchester Valley's all-time leading leader in points. All those assists have added up.

While he finished with seven assists, he easily could have had nine. He had a helper called back by an offsides penalty. Another high-quality opportunity courtesy of a second half Piper pass clanged off the goal post.

"I have to give my teammates credit," he said. "They were finding openings. I can't not pass it to an open player."

Piper failed to register a goal, but made a difference in many other ways, including fighting in the mud for ground balls that extended multiple Manchester Valley possessions.

By the game's conclusion, his jersey and shorts were covered in mud.

"I don't think Colin gets enough credit for being our quarterback and field general," Manchester Valley coach John Piper said. "He's also our emotional leader."

The Mavericks also received a boost from goalie Dan Mangold, who had 19 saves. High save totals are not unusual for Mangold. In fact, it's part of the plan, John Piper said. The Manchester Valley defense is willing to give up low-percentage shots, figuring their steady goalie can make the saves on the rest.

"He helps keep our defense organized," Colin Piper said.

Mangold's successful clears also helped spark transition opportunities for the Mavericks, who struggled in the first half to generate possessions.

FSK freshman Noah Baugher had two first-quarter goals. The Eagles led for much of the first quarter, but Logan Garland's goal off a Dan Johnston assist tied the game at 3-3 with a minute left in the first.

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It was a back-and-forth battle until Johnston and Hull scored back-to-back third quarter goals to give Manchester Valley a 5-3 lead. Hull had a team-high four goals. Piper assisted on all four.

Appropriately enough, Piper had possession in the game's final moments racing around while avoiding a Francis Scott Key double team.

When the final horn sounded, Mavericks teammates rushed towards the goal and celebrated with Mangold. Piper was the last one to get there. From the opposite attack zone, he had the longest distance to run.

FSK (4-9) ended the season losing six of its last seven games. Eagles coach Nate Eyler said his team will lose a senior core that were four-year starters. He said goalie Garrison Cook (seven saves) will be particularly difficult to replace.

But FSK was able to work some younger players into the rotation as the season went along, including Baugher (two goals, one assist). Junior Cole Falkenstine added two goals for the Eagles.

After the game, both teams and coaches exchanged handshakes.

"It was a well-played game, especially when you consider the conditions," Eyler said of the muddy field and the steady rain that fell during the first half.

For Piper, it was win and advance by any means necessary, even if it means assists instead of goals.

"My teammates were getting open," he said. "I have to give them the credit."

Goals: FSK- Cole Falkenstine 2, Noah Baugher 2, Liam Risell, Colton Haines; MV-Kyle Hull 4, Dan Johnston 2, Logan Garland 2, Adam Bien.

Assists: FSK-Luke VanderMeulen, Baugher; MV-Colin Piper 7, Dan Johnston.

Saves: FSK-7 (Garrison Cook); MV-19 (Dan Mangold).

Halftime: MV, 5-4.

410-857-7896

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