Oxbridge’s Christian Tomei With 18 Saves Ignites 8-7 Upset of Saint Andrew’s

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Riding home I was thinking of how many different stories I witnessed tonight.

Long time readers know that I constantly point out that in many one goal games it comes down to a star player making a key play at the right time.

That didn’t happen tonight.

Because it wasn’t the star player that won the game.

It was more of a number of plays I can point to throughout the whole contest . . .

And now my personal Mount Rushmore has it’s fourth game.

Because there ARE so many stories to tell in this one.

 

Where to begin?

 

Let’s start with Christian Tomei, Oxbridge’s backup goalie, pressed into action after starter Ethan Randell was injured in practice, coming up with 18 saves, a 72% save percentage.

They were not easy shots.

Twice he came up with rapid fire double saves with the second one coming from in close.

But he saved his best for last.

After turning over the Oxbridge clear after OA took the lead, SA worked it around and found star attacker Nick Iznaga all alone about 9 yards out for the clean step down rip, but Tomei rose, or should I say sprawled to the occasion, smothering the shot with his body to preserve the win.

Monday morning at school will be a lot of fun for Mr. Tomei.  Just remember that St. Thomas is 36 hours later after that school bell rings at 7:00am.

 

Both teams earned every bit of offense they came up with as both defenses sparkled in individual coverage.  One thing that impressed me about Oxbridge in the second half of the season was how much  the support players on defense had stepped up their game and that occurred big time tonight.  SA was only able to take advantage twice of defensive lapses, scoring all alone on the crease both times but those who saw the first game know how easy SA was able to find those open looks in that game.

And both Hayeks played like they wanted to cram two games into one.

On the SA side their defense played very well too as it took a number of individual plays by dodging Oxbridge players to score the goals.  SA held Zach Ranta scoreless and kept him from really getting any good looks (I believe there was one inside look early in the third but that was it).  And Robert Bayless was held to one assist too.

On the SA offensive side, Oxbridge was able to take away many of the off ball cuts that was SA’s bread and butter all season and they managed to stay out of the penalty box for most of the game.  Communication was very good and spacing remained tight.  SA’s shooting was not crisp in the first half and they settled for some lesser looks then they were accustomed to getting most of the season.  They hit the cage with 11 of the 22 attempts in the first half and that is well below the norm for them as many of the looks were well wide off alley runs.

 

The Freshman and the 8th Grader . . . and a battling senior.

Gable Braun played a dominant first half and is a unique weapon.  He went 13 for 19.  But in the second half Austin Roca, a middie who didn’t really face off much, managed to slow him down.  Braun was able to get a few clean pops forward and got a shot off on a break but OA did a terrific job of keeping SA from getting a momentum run of goals off the faceoff wins and that helped to overcome the faceoff advantage.

And Connor Davies is a name to remember too.  The numbers might not show it but when it came time for OA to settle down on offense and find some threat he was the one to do so.  He was able to occupy an SA long pole behind the net, and that respect alone says something.  He didn’t officially get the assist on the game tying goal in the fourth but it was his subtle use of the passing angle that gave Riley Smith the extra step he needed to pull the trigger on the curl.

Remember him going forward.

 

The continuing growth in the OA kids belief in themselves versus the season long SA strength of schedule and confidence it brings . . .

That battle stands on its own two feet.

And another point I made a few weeks ago came to fruition.  I noted the continuing growth of the team’s offensive depth and that came through too.  Tyler Jerd with two very important right wing rips at key times. Liam Lisec opening the scoring and the second half tallies were by Jack Kilian, Riley Smith and Bobby Kilian with the late game winner.  You no longer can concentrate on one or two key threats.

SA had 6 scorers for the 7 goals, and 5 were assisted.  Just like all year.  Except they had to work a lot harder than most of the other games.  It almost became a numbers game.  And OA kept them under 10 goals.  Only two other Florida teams held them to 8 goals, and none to 7 before tonight.

Almost like the old roles were reversed.

OA’s indivdual efforts actually overcame the SA team ones . . . on offense at least.  Three years ago no one would believe that possible.

Saint Andrew’s didn’t lose this game, Oxbridge won it.

 

Of course, there’s always a downside to a game like this.

SA’s marvelous senior class will have to look at what might have been.

There were certainly tears on the sidelines after the game.

SA was not only #1 in the Florida Media Poll.  I’ve voted them #1 in the IL Southeast Poll too.  All season long.

Deservedly so.

High school sports are so much more emotional than the professionals and even the colleges.  For most emotional maturity is still a ways off.  And this will feel devastating for awhile.

That’s okay.

SA’s kids need to take to heart that they gave  this state a glimpse of the past glory.

In this newly competitive landscape down here nothing will come easy.  For much of the year SA did make it look easy.

Because they were that darn good.

One game does not change that accomplishment.

And hopefully a few years down the line they will appreciate how good they were . . . and a new goal wipes out any lingering feelings they might still keep around.

 

A wonderful game of lacrosse.

Played on a cool night after storms swept through and  threatened to postpone the game.

A large and boisterous crowd given the weather threats . . . and a few parents that need to remember that reffing ain’t easy.

Please do so next time.

Please.

 

Oxbridge jumped out to the 1-0 lead with 9:10 left as Liam Lisec went down the right alley and nailed the top left corner to gain the early lead.  Just 36 seconds later Iznaga tied the game up as he worked out from behind the right side of the net, up the alley, before left hand found the right middle of the cage.  Then at 7:09 it was Nick Diamond unassisted as he drew out his defender to the far left wing and beat him to the net, finishing in front for 2-1.  David Diamond and Iznaga combined for the 3-1 lead with 2:44 to go.  Peter Dykas gained possession on the left wing and found Iznaga up top and his pass to the middle found Diamond and he was able to hit the top left corner to end the period at 3-1 SA.

Colin Hayek was able to gain control off a second period faceoff scramble and went down the middle, firing home to the top right side for 3-2 just 11 second in to the period.  At 8:06 Jerd tied the game as he took the Bobby Kilian feed from up top on the right wing and he hit the top right corner for 3-3.  Two minutes later Jerd and Bayless teamed up to give Oxbridge their first lead as Jerd again took the right wing feed from up top and hit the same spot. OA then stretched the lead to 5-3 as Davies and Colin Hayek teamed up on a 4-3 fast break with Hayek finding Davies on the left wing for the step down shot to the low right side at 4:20 and momentum was all Oxbridge.

But less than a minute later Carl Klepper teamed up with Brian Fox as Klepper snuck in to the left crease area and Fox found him from the middle for the easy one timer. And 50 seconds later the game was again tied as Dykas found Davis Diamond also all alone on the right crease and Davis went low for 5-5.  OA regained the lead at 1:33 as Jack Kilian utilized a left wing face dodge to the low left side and his right hand hit the low left corner to make it 6-5 at the half.

SA scored the only goal of the third as Iznaga found Owen Bezick from right GLE in the middle and Bezick was able to get off a worm burner that beat Tomei low at 6:46 and we entered the fourth tied at 6.

Just 15 seconds into the fourth SA took the lead off an unusual sequence.  Braun won the faceoff backwards but the velocity carried it right into the Oxbridge box and it was taken by the OA player.  But immediately he was stripped and when the OA wings followed the play forward they were trapped and the SA 4-3 fast break resulted in Tristan Cade getting the long pole look at cage from straight away and he buried it for the 7-6 lead.  Possessions were flipped a couple of times and OA was guilty of a few sloppy plays that could have given SA momentum if SA was able to convert but Tomei came up with SEVEN fourth quarter saves and with 5:28 left Smith was able to tie the game as he took a feed behind the net, worked a little past left GLE and fired home the right hand low shot from the tough angle, setting up the climactic finish.  Both teams killed off a penalty in the fourth and finally OA got possession with about 2 minutes to go and patiently worked for an opening.  And Bobby Kilian was able to face dodge his defender on the left wing and his shot found the low left corner, igniting half the crowd and all of his bench with exactly one minute to go.

Even in that last minute there were a few possession changes and after Tomei made that game saver on Iznaga, OA was able to clear and called time with 8 seconds left, leaving one more odd twist to this.  Oxbridge placed 7 men on offense as the ball was going to be put in play.  To set up the potential strip SA placed goalie Nick Ferraro on the offensive side of the field to help their ride.  But OA was whistled for the violation and SA rushed to get off a final attempt.  The pass forward somehow managed to find Ferraro’s stick but before he could make any sort of play he was surrounded and stripped at the buzzer and the upset was completed.

I wonder if anyone can remember a game where the final play was a goalie trying to get off a shot in the offensive end to tie a game . . .

Another story in itself.

 

Oxbridge moves on to face their next foe, #2 St, Thomas Aquinas, an 18-12 winner over Stoneman Douglas tonight.  No rest for the weary.

SA will have the longer summer . . . literally and certainly emotionally.

A learning experience for a lot of people who thought the rightful alignment was coming back into place.  I wrote two years ago that this program led the state of Florida to what it has become today but I also wrote it would never be the same again . . . and tonight that was proven even more than last year did.

They’ll be back.

 

As always, when a team gets eliminated I take a few words to thank all the graduating seniors for everything they did, for the great enjoyment I get from watching them play and for the enjoyment they gave the fans.  As many of you know I got my feet wet on lacrosse down here about 9 years ago by going to SA games and rooting for them.  Over the years I got to know many of the parents well too.  Sometimes the graduating of the kids meant not seeing their parents afterwards so I’d like to make an open plea to those parents of graduating kids to keep coming to games when they get the chance.  It’s a special community bound by the love of this sport and it would be a shame to lose that contact.  And a wonderful opportunity to give back a little in helping the next group of parents appreciate what they will be seeing.

As for the kids themselves, all the best to you, playing at the next level or not, go on to graduation and wherever you let life take you.

Davis . . . I want to see four years of stellar play at Albany . . . show them what Florida lacrosse has become.  Conlan, your dad is my fellow Statesman so don’t disappoint!  Peter, your folks have been big supporters of our site . . . keep making them proud.  All the rest of the seniors, sorry to not name all of you, good luck with everything you take on.  I’ll be watching.

 

Team Statistics

 

Faceoffs:  SA  13-6

Shots:  SA  42-27

Shots on Goal:  SA  25-14

Turnovers:  OA  17-14

Penalties:  1 each

 

Individual Statistics

 

OA

Tyler Jerd  2G

Bobby Kilian and Colin Hayek  1G/1A each

Liam Lisec, Connor Davies, Jack Kilian and Riley Smith  1G each

Robert Bayless  1A

Christian Tomei  18 saves

 

SA

Davis Diamond  2G

Nick Iznaga  1G/2A

Nick Diamond, Carl Klepper, Tristan Cade and Owen Bezick  1G each

Brian Fox and Peter Dykas  1A each

Nick Ferraro with 6 saves

 

Thanks to Coach Ross and Coach Seaman for talking to me before and after the game