by Tom Utescher
April 18. This day in history: the first Action Comics issue featuring Superman was published in 1938, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led the historic aid raid on Tokyo in 1942, and the boys’ lacrosse team at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy recorded its first Inter-Ac League victory in 2013.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the host Blue Devils scored twice in the second period last Thursday, then went up 5-0 in the third quarter before the visiting Germantown Academy Patriots got on the board. SCH went on to win, 7-2, raising its record to 8-3 overall and 1-3 in the league, while GA slipped to 1-10, 0-4.
“It’s huge for us because we finally broke the ice, and from a confidence perspective, it’s what we needed,” said fourth-year head coach Mike DelGrande, who is also the school’s athletic director. “I feel so good for our guys because they’ve worked so hard for this, and it’s what they’ve wanted.”
Back in the spring of 2005, the old all-male Chestnut Hill Academy became the last Inter-Ac school to take up the sport of lacrosse. The Blue Devils played many club teams in those early years as they prepared to try and break into one of the toughest interscholastic lax leagues in the country. Reigning champion Haverford School has polled in the top spot in country several times, and most of the other Inter-Ac teams have earned high national rankings during their most successful seasons.
In last week’s landmark win, SCH received a game-high four goals from junior Tasso Karras, who made one solo strike and received assists on his other scores from classmates Jackson Kleintz and Kyle Lawlor and from senior Pete Nicolo. Nicolo also set up a goal by senior Clint Sanders, who scored twice, while fellow 12th-grader Evan Fireman furnished the other goal for the Blue Devils.
Sanders will be playing at Widener University next year and classmate Forrest Rall will be performing for Ithaca College. It was tremendously gratifying for this year’s seniors to be able to leave the program with at least one Inter-Ac victory.
“It what we’ve worked for the past four years, and it’s finally come together,” said Sanders. “We could tell we were ready to do this from the way that we’ve played in the non-league games, and the way we’ve competed in the league games.”
The Devils found rough going in league outings against Malvern Prep and Haverford School, but in a 9-3 loss to Episcopal Academy they played well in the second half after falling behind 5-1 before the break.
“I thought a lot of the time, we played with them for the most part,” Sanders said. “Out of the league, I think our hardest game was against Manheim Township, and we rose to the challenge. We really jumped on them early, and then our defense dominated them.”
Inter-Ac observers felt that the Devils’ first league victim might well be Germantown Academy. New head coach Brian Grady, formerly an assistant coach with the Patriots for eight years, is rebuilding a GA program that took a huge graduation hit at the end of last season.
In Thursday’s match the opening face-off was won by SCH’s Wyn Rall, Forrest Rall’s twin brother. The Blue Devils spent much of the initial three minutes on attack, as GA successfully killed the first penalty of the day. With five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the Patriots briefly thought that they had scored the icebreaker, but the ball had actually burrowed into the net on the outside of the goal frame, and the period ended with the score still 0-0.
Springside Chestnut Hill again took the initiative as the second quarter got underway, and with 7:31 to go before halftime Sanders scooped up the rebound of a teammate’s shot and converted for the game’s first goal. Nicolo fed to Karras for a score with 4:57 on the clock, and the 2-0 tally held up until the intermission, when CHA had an 11-5 advantage in the shot column.
A little over two minutes into the third quarter, GA headed up the field on a promising transition charge, but the Patriots floated a pass a little too high as they approached the attack zone, and the ball was picked off by SCH’s Lawlor.
The scoreboard stayed stuck at 2-0 while each side killed off a penalty, then the Blue Devils’ offense got moving again with 6:15 left in the quarter. Nicolo earned his second assist as he delivered the ball inside to Sanders, who scored from a few feet off the right edge of the crease. Just 35 seconds later, Fireman deposited a bounce shot to give the home team a 4-0 advantage.
“It was important to get those first couple goals and then build it from there,” said the Devils’ DelGrande. “By the time they were able to score, it didn’t shake our confidence and we still felt we had control of the game. We played very well defensively today; we stepped up and basically took everything away from them.”
GA called a time-out following the fourth SCH marker, but when play resumed the next goal also belonged to the Blue Devils, thanks to a solo effort by Karras with 2:13 on the clock. The SCH shutout did not survive the third quarter, though, as GA sophomore James Diver corralled the rebound of a teammate’s outside shot and jammed the ball in with 1:28 to go.
The third round ended with the score 5-1, and that figure was still on the board six minutes into the final quarter, as both teams had to cope with penalties. Down the stretch, SCH’s Karras sandwiched his third and fourth goals around a Patriot score by freshman Matt Ho, who received an assist from junior Max Derham.
The final shot totals showed 21 attempts for SCH, and a dozen for the Patriots. Each playing a half in the Blue Devils’ goal cage, as usual, junior Xander Pacilio (the starter) and sophomore Matt Eccles each recorded four saves. For GA, sophomore Ian Davies went the distance in the net, coming up with a total of 10 stops.
Springside Chestnut Hill scheduled just one game against Haverford and Malvern this spring, so the Devils are done with those two Inter-Ac squads for 2013. However, they still have to play a home-away series with Penn Charter, as well as rematches against Episcopal and GA.
“We’re still going to be considered the underdog in a lot of league games,” DelGrande remarked after Thursday’s milestone victory, “but getting this first win relieves a lot of pressure.”