SCH junior Matt Eccles (left), who also plays goalie for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, gets off a shot on the opposing keeper during last Saturday’s game. Unfortunately for Blue Devils fans, the St. Mark’s player at right jogged Eccles arm and the ball was blocked by another defender’s stick. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

SCH junior Matt Eccles (left), who also plays goalie for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, gets off a shot on the opposing keeper during last Saturday’s game. Unfortunately for Blue Devils fans, the St. Mark’s player at right jogged Eccles arm and the ball was blocked by another defender’s stick. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

After splitting their first two official lacrosse games against a pair of Maryland teams during the second week of March, the boys of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy improved to 2-1 last weekend as they hosted a Saturday matinee against St. Mark’s High School of Wilmington, Del.

The Blue Devils built a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and scored again at the start of the second round, and although the visiting Spartans presented more of a challenge the rest of the way, SCH emerged on top, 7-5. Senior Jackson Kleintz and freshman Malcolm Glendinning each scored twice for the Devils, while senior Xander Pacilio made eight saves in goal as he picked up the win.

This is the 10th year of boys’ lacrosse at the school, and in many ways the program has come of age, claiming its first two victories within the powerful Inter-Ac League last season.

“Nothing’s easy in our league; there aren’t any days off,” observed Mike DelGrande, who is Director of Athletics at Springside Chestnut Hill and is embarking on his fifth season as head lacrosse coach. “We’ve worked very hard to get where we are. We’re not completely there yet, but we’re a lot closer than we were five years ago.”

The Blue Devils have experienced returning players at the two ends of the field. On the attack are seniors Jackson Kleintz and Tasso Karras, along with junior Michael Bown. Kleintz has signed with Georgia’s Mercer University and Karras is heading to Wesleyan University. Three senior defensemen all signed with college programs back in November; Sean Delaney with Villanova, Tom Hogan with the University of Hartford, and Kyle Lawlor with St. John’s.

As throughout last season, Pacilio and junior Matt Eccles are sharing time in the SCH goalcage this spring. Pacilio will continue his career at Ohio Wesleyan, and Eccles, who is also a field player for the Devils, has made a verbal commitment to the University of Vermont.

“We’re young in the midfield, but we’ve got a very good freshman class,” DelGrande explained. “Some of the freshman are seeing playing time with the varsity already.”

Glendinning is one of the ninth-graders who look ready for prime time; he whipped in the first two goals for Springside Chestnut Hill last Saturday. After his second strike, the Blue Devils came right back down the field and had Delaney score with 1:42 remaining in the opening quarter. Just 80 seconds into the next period, the host team was ahead 4-0 thanks to Kleintz, who circled out from behind the cage on the left side to find the net.

St. Mark’s, playing its first official game of the season, began to recover from the Devils’ early onslaught a few minutes later, when James Magnani broke the ice for the visitors.

SCH called time out with 7:41 to go in the first half, but the Spartans scored again four minutes after play resumed, with James Hamary doing the honors this time. SCH called another time-out 28 seconds before halftime to set up a final play, but it didn’t materialize as planned and the count was still 4-2 at the intermission.

Midway through the third quarter, Dalton Ziemba got the Spartans within a point of the leaders.

Over the next two minutes SCH pressed at the offensive end, but a shot from the right flank by junior Nick Lawlor missed by inches and then St. Mark’s keeper Nick Stahl reacted instantly to turn away a shot right at the crease by Blue Devils senior Tim Brennan. Not long after that the hosts found themselves shortstaffed due to a penalty, but the visitors couldn’t cash in and they still trailed by one, 4-3, at the three-quarter mark.

SCH nailed down the elusive fifth goal in the opening minute of the fourth period, thanks to Kleintz, and Bown made it 6-3 as the clock clicked down past the 10-minute mark.

With 8:54 showing an illegal body check left the Devils shorthanded for two minutes, but there was no lasting impact as each team scored once during the penalty.

First, it was the hosts’ Nick Lawlor coming down in transition to put the home team up 7-3, then St. Mark’s, still with the man advantage, got the goal back thanks to Brandon Papa. A little later, Springside Chestnut Hill had to play two men short for 30 seconds as penalties overlapped. The locals weathered this particular storm, but things weren’t back to all-even for long when Ziemba shot his second goal of the day for St. Mark’s. The goal went in with 3:02 remaining, and it proved to be the last of the day.

SCH hadn’t suffered much damage directly as a result of its penalties, but the infractions definitely disrupted the flow of the Devils’ game.

“We can’t afford to have all those penalties,” DelGrande said afterwards. “We talked about that and it’s one of the things we’re going to work on. We don’t want to be man-down the majority of the game.”

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