By Scott Johnston
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/30/09
Senior attackman Paul Mita scored a hat trick and Conestoga broke a 4-4 tie late in the third period with five unanswered goals today as the state’s No. 2-ranked team defeated Emmaus, 9-4, in a second-round Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) playoff game at Harriton High School.
The win vaults the District 1 champs (23-1) into Tuesday’s semifinals against fellow District 1 and Central League opponent Springfield-Delco, which defeated Carlisle, 7-4. The game will be played early Tuesday at Harriton at 1 p.m. to give Conestoga time to prepare for its evening graduation.
Meanwhile, Emmaus – the Lehigh Valley Conference and District 11 champion – ends a fantastic season, finishing with a 19-5 overall mark that included the school’s first-ever win in the state playoffs four days earlier (7-5 over Lower Merion).
The Hornets, who had won eight straight games, had rallied from a 4-1 deficit at the half by scoring the first three goals of the third period courtesy of senior midfielder Mic DeBellis (No. 56 on the season), junior attackman Alex Kuehner (32nd) and junior attackman Will Scott (39th, second of game) to shock Conestoga.
But the Pioneers responded, outscoring Emmaus, 5-0, the rest of the way in defeating the Hornets for the second time this season. Back on March 24, in a game played at Emmaus’ Memorial Field, ‘Stoga had rallied from a 5-4 deficit entering the fourth period before outscoring the hosts, 4-1, in the game’s final 12 minutes to win 8-6.
“They have tough kids and that’s what I said when we played them up there and that’s what I’m saying now,” Conestoga coach Brian Samson said. “I think the difference was depth.
“I think it probably took them a lot of energy to tie the game up and our guys hung in there mentally and stayed in the game. I don’t know if we’re five goals better than that team. I just think we kind of broke them at the end. That’s a helluva team. Jef (Hewlings) has done a great job.”
Mita, headed to Villanova, scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with 2:19 remaining in the third period as the Pioneers regained the lead at 5-4. Tanner Scott, Jeff Chu (two goals, one assist), Austin Rogusky (one assist) and Ryan Lord also added tallies down the stretch.
“They’re an awfully talented team and we’re a few bodies away from being able to finish 48 minutes of lacrosse at that pace; and you could see that,” said Hewlings. “It took a lot of energy for us to get the game to 4-4 and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t think we had the ability to do that.”
Matt Smith also scored for Conestoga and, as usual, All-American Mike Bronzino led the defense while also contributing an assist. Peter Zonini had three saves as the Pioneers outshot the Green Hornets, 35-13 and won 30 of the 50 groundballs as well as 9 of 16 face-offs.
Dan Zagnoli recorded 12 saves in net for the Hornets.
“Once we got it tied, we needed to be able to hold them off for a little bit longer to keep it a game in the fourth quarter, and we weren’t able to do that,” said Hewlings. “They came right back and scored and that’s a mark of a good team. They’re well-coached and they’re talented and that’s why people think they could be the next state champion.”
Conestoga 9, Emmaus 4
Emmaus 1-0-3-0- 4
Conesotga 2-2-2-3- 9
Emmaus scoring: Will Scott 2, Mic DeBellis 1, Alex Kuehner 1.
Conestoga scoring: Paul Mita 3, Jeff Chu 2, Matt Smith 1, Tanner Scott 1, Austin Rogusky 1, Ryan Lord 1.
Shots: Emmaus: 13; Conestoga: 35
Saves: Dan Zagnoli (Em) 12, Pete Zonino (Con) 3
First round – May 26
Conestoga 13, Garnet Valley 7
Emmaus 7, Lower Merion 5
Springfield-Delco 10, Hempfield 1
Carlisle 6, Shady Side Academy 5
Manheim Township 9, North Allegheny 8
Mt. Lebanon 9, Hershey 8
Downingtown East 5, West Chester East 2
La Salle 13, Central Bucks East 8
May 30 – quarterfinals
Conestoga 9, Emmaus 4
Springfield-Delco 7, Carlisle 4
Manheim Township 6, Mt. Lebanon 5
La Salle 10, Downingtown East 8
June 2 – semifinals
Conestoga (1-1) vs. Springfield-Delco (1-3) at Harriton, 1 p.m.
Manheim Township (3-1) vs. La Salle (12-1) at site and time to be determined
June 6 – Finals at Hersheypark Stadium, 2 p.m.