By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/4/09
If there were any lingering doubts that Conestoga was not worthy of its top ranking in the state and recent inclusion in the Inside Lacrosse Power Rankings, they were erased today.
The Pioneers led from the start and dominated visiting Haverford School, 10-4, in a matchup of the two top-ranked boys’ teams in the PA Media Lacrosse Rankings.
Junior Matt Smith scored three goals and added an assist and Paul Mita had a goal and two assists while the Pioneer defense put a net on the Haverford attack.
Conestoga, now the only PA team in the Inside Lacrosse Rankings at No. 25, improved to 7-0. Haverford School, coming off three straight one-goal wins over national powers, fell to 6-3.
The Pioneers relief on flawless ball movement on attack and a relentless defense as well as solid face-off work by junior Ryan Buttenbaum. Their two-headed goalie tandem of senior Nick Shea (five saves) and junior Peter Zonino (six saves) worked its magic again as each yielded just two goals in a half’s work.
“We put together a great game today,” said Conestoga coach Brian Samson. “I think we played really physical and we rode hard. I told our guys that we didn’t need to play a perfect game, but that we needed a perfect effort.
“And we had that today – that was really exciting.”
Austin Rogusky, Mike Ackerman, Peter Bowers, Travis Armiger, Jeff Chu and Ryan Lord also scored for the Pioneers while Mike Bronzino, Phil Cuddeback, Casey Ikeda, Brian Dailey and Austin Campbell paced the defense. Conestoga led, 4-1, at halftime and pulled away with four unanswered goals in the third quarter to take an 8-2 lead.
“I think the guys understand that they need to play their best lacrosse to beat a team like Haverford and to beat a team like La Salle,” said Samson, whose squad topped then-No. 1 La Salle, 6-3, on the same field two weeks earlier to open the season. “So, I think they’re focused and they are definitely hungry.”
Haverford School coach John Nostrant was not as happy. His team made some costly mistakes and had no answers for the Conestoga attack in front of All-American goalie Dan Wigrizer (seven saves).
“They’re athletic and they try to create a lot of chaos on the defensive end and we didn’t respond well to it,” Nostrant said. “They really out-athleted us, they outsmarted us and they outhustled us.”
Haverford must get back up quickly since the Fords travel to defending Inter-Ac League champion Malvern Prep Tuesday for their Inter-Ac opener.
“We’ve played some very good teams, we’re battle-tested; I’m not panicking yet,” Nostrant said. “But we’re a young team; we’re not young, we’re inexperienced. We’ll be fine, we have to clean iup the fundamentals of the game; we have to start moving off the ball better, pass and catch better. All the little things we can do better.”
Scoring for the Fords were Carl Walrath, Grove Stewart, Ryan Mansmann and Liam O’Connor.
Conestoga, which hosts Abington Monday and then takes off for eight days, is riding a high dose of confidence. The Pioneers, though junior-laden, have played together for years through school lacrosse and in club ball with Mesa Fresh. They also have emerged offensively this year with the help of new assistant Brody Bush, formerly a middle school coach.
“The fact that we’ve been playing together and know each other has helped us,” Smith said. “Also, the help from our new coach, Mr. Bush has gotten the offense moving.
“We just have to play our game since we feel we’re better than any other team.”