by Tom Utescher
The stickmen of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy went into Easter weekend with a 2-0 record in Inter-Ac League lacrosse after pulling out an 8-7 victory over host Penn Charter last Wednesday afternoon.
SCH scored the lone goal of the first quarter and then led 4-1 at halftime before Charter jumped right back into contention in the third period. The game was tied 5-5, 6-6, and 7-7, then sophomore Matt Bown fired the game-winner with 3:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“The goal at the end by Matt Bown was huge; he placed it perfectly,” commented SCH head coach Mike DelGrande. “Defensively, these guys are playing very well, and we’re going to need that going deeper into the league.”
It was the fifth straight win for the Blue Devils (5-4 overall) and it came on the heels of the previous Friday’s 10-3 victory in their Inter-Ac opener against Germantown Academy.
Penn Charter, which had launched league play on April 6 and suffered a 14-5 loss to Episcopal Academy, slipped to 2-6 overall after the SCH game. For the Quakers, having to play catch-up last Wednesday was a situation that was all too familiar.
“Unfortunately, our M.O. right now is that we keep spotting teams goals,” noted PC skipper Pat McDonough. “I thought we had the momentum going our way later in the game and it’s a shame we gave up that one that gave them the lead. Give them credit, they did a pretty good job of maintaining their poise.”
Springside Chestnut Hill logged a greater share of ball possession than PC in the first quarter, but only outshot the Quakers, 5-4. The fifth shot was key, however, as senior Jack Lamb looped out to the top of the offense from the right side and scored with 30 seconds remaining.
The Blue Devils, who’d had a high-scoring fourth quarter in their victory over GA, now pumped in three more goals in less than 90 seconds a few minutes into the second period. Markers by junior Mac McLaughlin and senior Zach Messerle, and a second strike by Lamb put the visitors up 4-0 with 7:31 to go in the half.
Charter had lost some important pieces of its 2016 defensive unit to graduation, and McDonough said, “We’ve got some freshmen and other inexperienced guys back there, and in this league it’s tough to have to learn on the job.”
Charter would avoid a first-half whitewash as junior Ryan Dickson came from behind the cage on the left to wipe the zero off the home side of the scoreboard with 1:57 remaining.
SCH still had a three-goal advantage at halftime, but DelGrande said that in the huddle, “I told them, you’re up 4-1 right now, but they’re going to come back out firing on all cylinders, and they did. I think there were times when we began to feel a little tight, and we left some goals out on the field because we were not as smart as we need to be on the offensive end. After we got that last goal, our defense stepped up to help us keep the lead.”
Fighting his way in toward the crease under pressure, Charter senior Luke Stansfield scored twice in the first four minutes of the third quarter.
PC’s McDonough related that back during halftime, “We told them we didn’t need to make this huge push to take over the game right away; we just needed a couple of goals to make a game of it, and we’d be okay.”
With 6:41 left in the third quarter, the Blue Devils went up by two points again (5-3) thanks to senior Brendan Clark. Just two-and-a-half minutes later, the Quakers had the game tied at 5-5, with senior Dylan Schwartz first feeding junior Blake Target for a goal, and then scoring the equalizer himself.
SCH was still able to take a one-goal edge (6-5) into the fourth quarter, going in front with 47 seconds left in the third. From the top of the offense, junior C.J. Sweitzer spotted Clark cutting in around the crease and threaded the ball in to him for the senior’s second goal of the period.
Penn Charter pressured right from the start of the fourth frame. SCH sophomore goalie Bern Popky blocked a shot by senior Mac Wilson (who has signed with Lehigh University), but the Quakers kept the ball in the zone and sophomore Gavin Tygh scored to make it 6-6 still only 20 seconds into the concluding quarter.
After killing a penalty around the 10-minute mark, the Blue Devils took the ball up into the offensive zone for a spell. Following a save by PC keeper Morgan Miller on a shot by the visitors, Messerle scooped up the rebound and stuffed the ball in with 7:03 left to play.
The Quakers were back even (7-7) three minutes later, as Target probed and maneuvered out in the flat on the left side until he was able to roll in on his defender and get off a successful shot. In the next minute, Bown scored the deciding goal for Springside Chestnut Hill from about a dozen yards out on the left after Sweitzer got him the ball from a little farther away.
The 8-7 final was now on the board with 3:16 remaining. Charter won the face-off and went up on the attack, but this possession ended with a save by Popky on a PC shot. The visitors took the play to the other end of the field and called time-out with 1:18 to go.
Looking for an insurance goal, the Blue Devils fed the ball inside but Charter checks knocked it down to the ground and the Quakers got possession with around 35 seconds left. Up in the attack zone, they called time-out with 17 seconds to go. When play resumed, PC looked to penetrate from out on the left wing, but aggressive, solid defense by the Devils prevented attackers from making the turn to the inside as time ran out on the home team.
In goal, the Blue Devils’ Popky and the Quakers’ Miller (a junior) each produced 10 saves. Coming away with two goals apiece were Clark, Lamb, and Messerle for SCH, and Stansfield and Target for Penn Charter.
SCH had now won five straight games after starting the season 0-4 against some very strong opponents.
“Right now, that’s helping us, and that’s why we put that first part of the schedule together,” DelGrande said. “We weren’t worried about the wins and losses; we wanted to get these guys ready for the league.”
McDonough observed, “They’re on a bit of a roll right now. Their defense is good, with a lot of good athletes who play well together, and their goalie had a good day.”
As for his own squad, the Quakers’ commander said, “We’re trying to string together four quarters of consistent lacrosse. We have quarters when we look like we can play with anybody – we just don’t have them often enough.”