by Tom Utescher

Stalked by an ANC defender, CHA sophomore Clint Sanders (left) looks to pass the ball to a teammate cutting to goal (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Just before winter’s encore last week Chestnut Hill Academy enjoyed a pleasant Tuesday afternoon for its lacrosse season opener, and the outcome of the game also put a smile on the Blue Devils’ faces. Leading for most of the game, except for a brief stretch in the third quarter, CHA topped host Academy of the New Church, 9-6.

Sophomore Forrest Rall rang up a hat trick and there were two goals apiece by freshman Jackson Kleintz (one assist) and sophomore Clint Sanders for the winners. Junior Kyle Espenshade and sophomore Evan Fireman each recorded one goal and one assist for the Devils, who got 10 saves from their seasoned senior goalie, Corbin Booker.

The ANC Lions, also making their official season debut, marked down two goals apiece from Reece Ayers and Luke Frazier, and 12 saves in the nets from keeper Kelvin Ayers.

“I think we’re more experienced this year than we were last year, and we had a good team effort today,” said second-year head coach Mike DelGrande, who graduated only three members of his 2010 squad. “We’ve been talking to these guys about the need to step up our level of play. We’ve got a lot of guys back and other guys who are learning to take on starting roles.”

Last Tuesday, Chestnut Hill grabbed a 3-0 lead in a two-minute span, opening up with a shot from the top of the offense by Kleintz with 5:51 remaining in the opening quarter. The Devils then took advantage of a two-minute, non-releasable penalty against ANC (which much be served in full even if the other team scores).

Sanders whipped in a shot from the outside, then Fireman (who assisted on CHA’s first goal) took a pass from Espenshade and beat Ayers from a few yards off the right post. ANC scored in transition before the period was over, and then cut the lead to 3-2 in the middle of the second quarter.

The scoring pace slowed for CHA, even though the visitors continued to dominate the face-offs and logged a lot of ball possession. Rall traded goals with ANC’s Colton Doering to arrive at a 4-3 halftime score.

“We came out strong, but when they threw the zone [defense] against us it kind of threw off our guys,” DelGrande observed. “We recovered from that and I was pleased with our effort in the second half, when we came out ready to play offensively and defensively.”

The coach noted that the team’s defensive mainstays include, “Corbin in the goal, Matt Rubin, who is our other senior captain, and Jamie Hearn, our junior long-stick middie.”

The 4-3 halftime tally stayed on the board five minutes into the third quarter, then back-to-back goals by ANC’s Frazier gave the Lions their only lead of the day, at 5-4 with just under five minutes remaining in the period. The hosts’ advantage didn’t last long, as markers by Kleintz (at 3:22) and Rall (2:48) moved the Devils ahead again, 6-5, for the start of the final period.

“Last year we were up on these guys 4-1 at our place,” DelGrande recounted, “and they came back and won, 6-4. I think our guys remembered that, so when we got down by a goal, they responded well, and that was important.”

While Booker turned aside shots that might have given ANC a spark in a comeback attempt, Espenshade, Sanders, and Rall each scored in the first six minutes of the final quarter, making it 9-5. Just as a penalty on CHA expired with a little over two minutes to go, ANC’s Reece Ayers cashed in for the Lions to put the final score on the board.

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