photos by Seth Austin
The District of Death lived up to it’s reputation again last night. Next year this game will have less impact since At-Large berths will include both of them in most years. But this is this year and last night’s game was intense. You could see it before the game, you could see it on the field and you saw it after the game too.
On March 26th SJP traveled to Oxbridge and came away with the 11-9 win.
On that day SJP went 14-10 on faceoffs and last night they went 14-8.
SJP goalie Landon Reichert saved 7 of 16 for a .437 save % and last night he improved that to .450.
SJP placed 25 shots on goal that game for their 11 goals. Last night they hit the cage 18 times for their 8 goals.
And they held Beau Diamond to one goal that night.
Oxbridge turned it over 24 times.
This is a fragile sport at times.
And being fragile means margin for error combined with ‘one and your done’ means you better get it right if you want to move on.
The key to the game was that Oxbridge hung around after a first quarter they could have been behind badly and jumped all over the Eagles in the 2nd quarter. SJP had to play catchup the entire second half and they just couldn’t finish enough opportunities to do so. Crease stuffs by Oxbridge goalie Jake Proctor . . . shots missing the cage (10 for 19 on SJP’s shots hit the cage in the 2nd half) . . . and a stout defense led by Syracuse commit George Wandoff, kept the Eagles from converting.
I mentioned to Oxbridge HC Ross after the game that George seems to win every 50/50 ball but that’s not fair to him. He wins the 60/40 ball, the 70/30 ball and pretty much anything he gets his stick on. One term would be ground ball magnet . . . maybe the better term is Possession Magnet. The ball finds him. His instincts for when to move and re-position are high end instincts.
He’s not perfect. There was one key play in the second half where SJP attackman Travis Dick got under him but Proctor erased that chance with the crease stuff. But that was a rare thing.
There was one other thing about the second quarter that worked well for the Thunderwolves and that was the lengthy possessions. There were three separate times in the quarter where the short stick middies for SJP were asked to play lengthy shifts and Oxbridge made them work hard, and eventually a few right alley dodges were converted as the ball carrier got a step into open space, and OA’s shooting (10 for 12 in the quarter and 20 for 25 overall) converted those three opportunities. Kudos to the OA kids for recognizing and converting the opportunities; great awareness on when to clear out space to exploit.
Meanwhile, on the left wing, it was Beau Diamond beating his man to goal a few times and two of those goals were after SJP had cut the lead to 3 in the second half, and both of them were momentum killers.
SJP’s offense was most dangerous coming from behind the net with multiple cuts off that, in particular when the feed went to the second player for the open step down looks. They also converted 2 of the 3 EMO’s with Joe Dean firing off Kyle Davis’ feeds on the right wing.
For the SJP kids and coaching staff this one has to hurt more than most. Ever since I have been following the sport down here (I started going to games in 2006) they’ve had to play second fiddle in their District to the Big Dog of Florida lacrosse, even when they themselves were in Top 10 ranking in many seasons. Coach Andrew Bolger told me all year how much he enjoyed this team and these kids. They overcame a slow start to the season and progressed throughout the year to where they were also a legit threat to win it. There’s a good possibility that whoever wins this District is a legit threat to win it all.
And that is why ‘one and done’ is so painful.
It’s not just like sudden death in a game, this is sudden death for a career for a lot of kids too. You could see it in their faces after the game, players and coaches. High school sports . . . emotional, exhilarating . . . devastating . . . throw any term in you want.
But never dull.
Thanks kids for another rollercoaster ride last night.
SJP got off quickly in the 1st, just 40 seconds in as Brandon Balshi found Matt Evans up top from top left for the step down to the top left and at 8:07 it was Dean taking the Davis feed from behind right for the left hand bullet to the high short side to make it 2-0 after the first.
Just 9 seconds into the second it was Adam Stowell popping forward the faceoff and he finished down the middle, finding the low left corner for 2-1. Less than a minute later it was tied as Diamond beat his defender from the left wing to the crease and finished all alone in front. At 9:41 it was Diamond again as he cut in from the low left for the low short side shot and the OA 3-2 lead. Less than 2 minutes it was 4-2 as Caden Riccardo finished off the 4 on 3 break, taking the Diamond feed on the left wing for the step down between Reichert’s legs.
OA pushed it to 5-2 with 3:34 left as one of the lengthy possessions was finished by Chris Lawrence, dodging the right alley and hitting the low left corner. Mikey Hayes made it 6-3 after faking a pass to the top and when the defense turned he took off to the goal, finishing low 35 seconds later. Hayes ended the run with 14 seconds left as he also finished off the long possession with a right alley dodge, only to have Dean give SJP hope with a right wing dodge to the center and nailing a heck of a shot to the right side of the cage for 7-3 at the half.
Only 45 seconds into the third SJP’s Henry Konsker made it 7-4 as he picked off the outlet pass right in front of the net, finishing all alone. A 2-man advantage on SJP was turned into an EMO goal by Diamond as he stepped in from the left wing and found the net low for 8-4. Travis Dick answered at 9:03 as he curled behind the net and beat the defender to low GLE, hitting the high short side for 8-5. Lawrence answered that one by again utilizing the right alley and hitting the low middle of the net for 9-5 but Dean and Davis replicated their first EMO goal to net another with 2:31 left to send OA to the fourth up 9-6.
That turned out to be insurmountable as SJP’s offense went stale for most of the fourth, missing the target high and committing turnovers. Diamond face-dodged the left wing to the goal and finished high right at 9:19 for 10-6 and with 3:02 to go it was Hayes making an enormous play on EMO, as curled from behind left, was knocked down and covered, managed to get up and finish with something akin to a slam dunk in front for 11-6.
At that point the unfortunate incident I talked about on Morning Coffee occurred, with Hayes being injured with about 2 minutes to go. This was pretty scary for all of those there because it took a long time for him to recover enough to be helped off the field. Watch the video for more on this.
SJP scored the last two goals of the game to end it 11-8, with Charlie Bublitz firing low and Davis finding Dick on the low left crease for the open look.
For all the SJP seniors, good luck in the future whether you play on or not.
Here’s Coach Ross after the game:
Faceoffs: Oxbridge 14-8
Shots: SJP 30-25
Shots on Goal: Oxbridge 20-18
Turnovers: Oxbridge 24-23
Penalties: SJP 6-3
Beau Diamond 4G/1A
Mikey Hayes 3G
Chris Lawrence 2G
Adam Stowell and Caden Riccardo with 1G each
Jake Proctor with 10 saves
Joe Dean 3G
Travis Dick 2G
Matt Evans, Henry Konsker and Charlie Bublitz with 1G each
Kyle Davis 3A
Brandon Balshi 1A
Landon Reichert with 9 saves
Thanks to Coach Bolger and Coach Ross for talking to me after the game