thanks to Ted Swoboda and Tom Congdon for the pictures
Sometimes the expected does play out.
This was always going to be a tough matchup for Gulliver.
STA is the deeper team this year and that played a role yesterday. In many ways.
They already played this year and STA had won comfortably.
A shift to home field advantage was a good start as was the daytime start, but neither helped Gulliver as the day turned out to be much warmer than the players were used to.
A strange thing to say in South Miami but those of us down here know that the high school season was pretty much played in cooler than normal temperatures and no one was really accustomed to the heat. A ‘turf’ field that was flattened down certainly helped the cause for heat too.
Hence two things, one neither team controlled and one that STA took advantage of.
STA’s strategy was simple. Take advantage of that depth. Make Gulliver play defense early and often.
57 shots at goal . . . 18-3 advantage on faceoffs (one carry over) . . . only 8 turnovers. 31 shots on goal and 13 goals as Gulliver’s goalie Lucas Rego made nine saves in each half to try to stem the tide.
There was one point in the second quarter where Gulliver had their chance to take momentum but a rare lapse by Rego on a loose ball in front of his net was won by Sam Khalil and the resulting open net goal was the point of no return.
And as the game wore on the amount of possession time by STA did have the effect intended . . . and it showed in a number of ways.
Transition defense became a chore and the midfield struggled to get back and find their assignment.
When attacking in transition open space was missed as were a few open players, and when the pass was made it was not put in prime location to make the shot possible.
Mentally wearing down against a strong ride by STA with a number of the turnovers coming in the clearing game.
It all added up to an easy win for STA and a frustrating day for players, coaches and fans alike.
It was a bit of a homecoming for me too. It’s been ten years since I’ve watched a game on this field (last year’s Ponte Vedra game was played at the other campus). Back then Gulliver hosted what I believe to be St. Marks of Texas, also on a Saturday, and the game came down to the last few seconds with St. Marks holding the one goal lead. Gulliver was given possession with about 3 seconds left near the midfield and out by the sideline. Their long pole wound up with the other players bunched in front and his lengthy toss managed to elude all the players and ricochet off the post, preserving the SM win.
And about an hour later my son played his very first game for his U-11 Boca Jets team on the field. And scored the first two goals of the game. I guess that made me a lacrosse Dad too.
I mention that because I am always touched by how a season ends for a team. I’ve now seen three season endings the last 8 days and what a wide range of experiences they were.
SA’s kids completely devastated after their great season ended in a last minute goal . . . despondent over so many months of work . . . almost like a sudden car crash on the highway.
Oxbridge’s kids experiencing a roller coaster of a 96-hour period. Thinking what could have been.
And yesterday it was an anti-climax on the field for Gulliver.
Of course, Gulliver was the only one of the three that lost at home. No need to march out in double line formation.
Much easier to march the parents onto the field.
I’m starting to wonder a little about the double line formation.
I’ll cover that another day.
I like the parents coming out on the field to end the season a lot better.
Of course, for the winner, almost a full week to get ready for the third straight Final Four.
The first year . . . kind of just glad to be there . . . and they played that way
The second year . . . a sense of purpose . . . coming in #1 . . . just falling short of the elusive title
And now this year . . . a sense of mission more than purpose. Very little celebration. Almost like a business trip.
Much closer to home.
With a familiar Final Four opponent.
It will be a WAR.
STA took the lead only 36 seconds into the game as Louie Yovino was able to go down the left alley and his left hand ripped the top right corner for 1-0. It was 2-0 at 8:21 as Kevin Crowley used a left alley face dodge to the net and when his shot was contested it turned into a slow shot that fooled Rego, finding the top right corner. Crowley lengthened the lead to 3-0 at 5:38 as he beat his defender to the net from the left wing and his low shot found net and that’s where the period ended. Lengthy possessions kept Gulliver from establishing any rhythm offensively.
A stick penalty led to STA making it 4-0 15 seconds into the second as Crowley found Jimmy Harrington alone at left GLE from the wing and Harrington stepped out and went low between the legs. Gulliver finally found some possession time of their own and Nick Hassan was able to curl out from the left side and his right hand found the top right as the STA defense was slow to react so it was 4-1 at 10:35. About a minute and a half later it was 4-2 as Walker Gautier found CJ Hassan in the middle from the right wing and CJ hit the top left corner. At 7:19 STA responded as Yovino found Brennan Harhart in the middle from the right wing and his bounce shot kicked high to the left side for 5-2.
Less than two minutes later Gulliver answered with Trevor Pelletier cutting in from the left wing to the middle, hitting the net low for 5-3. Gulliver was able to get the next possession but after a turnover STA pressed to get ahead. A turnover near the GP goal would have given them a great chance to keep the momentum but STA didn’t give up the pressure and Rego was not able to cleanly get a scoop and Khalil outfought the defense to win the battle and deposit the shot into the net with 2:56 left. And when Crowley found net with 9 seconds left in the half off the left wing it was suddenly 7-3 at the half.
Going from a chance to cut the lead to one to a four goal deficit seemed to take a lot out of Gulliver. They were limited to only three shots on goal in the half and converted all three. It’s one thing to be down 7-3 if you are getting a lot of good looks but it was more of a steep mountain to climb if you have to go perfect on your opportunities. And the cumulative effect on chasing on defense was taking its toll in the heat.
Fatigue also shows in penalties, as you start to reach with your stick instead of moving your feet, and STA took advantage of that in the third to pull away. Two EMO goals within two minutes of each other made it 9-3 and basically put the game on ice. At 8:26 Khalil and Harrington teamed up as Harrington found him on the right wing from behind and Khalil’s left hand found the low left corner and that was followed by Khalil finding Crowley all alone in front for the low shot at 6:41. Harhart then worked the right wing, spun right and his bounce shot went high at 4:40 for 10-3. Gautier made it 10-4 with 1:16 left as his right alley dodge found the low left corner but Harrington answered with 33 seconds left as he beat his defender on a curl from behind left, hitting the top right corner for 11-4 after three.
Gulliver scored at 10:14 of the fourth as Gautier replicated his previous goal down the alley and STA scored two more goals to make it the 13-5 final. Nick Borodiak with the left hand rip from the middle at 7:37 and Khalil finding Crowley in the middle with 5:04 left. An unusual statistic for the game was that STA goalie Michael Adler did not make a save until the last minute of the game as the STA defense limited GP to only 6 shots on goal.
I suspect he won’t have to worry about facing only six shots in his next game but I think he’ll take the tradeoff for another win.
For the Gulliver kids another playoff run that falls short. But a very successful season with a final 16-4 record highlighted by their two wins over ranked Belen and a big road win over another Final Eight participant in Barron Collier. A should have been All American season for CJ Hassan and a final ride for a group of talented seniors who grew up playing together. It was nice to meet so many parents and fans during and after the game who were FLN followers and hopefully we made a contact or two who might help us with submissions in the future. Passionate about their team and their kids. But equally magnanimous afterwards.
I doubt it will be ten more years before I step foot here. And besides, my son gave up lacrosse after the one year. Too much time conflict with roller hockey. He was pretty much All American at that. Bowling too.
Two sets of proud parents I guess.
I get the feeling that the graduating seniors will be making their parents proud long after yesterday . . . the best of luck to them with everything they aspire to.
Faceoffs: STA 18-3
Shots: STA 57-14
Shots on Goal: STA 31-6
Turnovers: GP 17-8
Penalties: GP 4-0
#9 Kevin Crowley 5G/1A
#40 Sam Khalil 2G/2A
#15 Jimmy Harrington 2G/1A
#33 Brennan Harhart 2G
#36 Louie Yovino 1G/1A
#11 Nick Borodiak 1G
#1 Michael Adler with 1 save
#2 Walker Gautier 2G/1A
#20 CJ Hassan, #14 Trevor Pelletier and #12 Nick Hassan with 1G each
#10 Lucas Rego with 18 saves
Thanks to Coach Piggot and Coach Crowley for talking to me before and after the game