By Adam C. Warner
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/22/09
It took an extra 19 hours to get the job done, but for Austin Rogusky and the rest of his Conestoga teammates, it was well worth the wait.
Thanks to an impressive defensive stand and a three-goal spurt late in the fourth quarter, host Conestoga broke a deadlock and held on for a 12-9 victory over Springfield-Delco in a key Central League boys’ lacrosse contest today at Teamer Field.
The victory not only kept the Pioneers (11-0 overall) unbeaten but also put the squad in sole possession of first place in the Central League at 5-0. Springfield (10-1) is 5-1 in the Central League
After inclement weather forced the suspension of play on Tuesday night, Wednesday’s game resumed at the start of the fourth quarter with the Pioneers leading 8-7. But instead of working against them, the delay appeared to have played into the hands of Conestoga.
“I thought the layoff was almost a benefit,” said Rogusky, who finished with a game-high three goals and three assists. “The entire team was pumped up and ready for the fourth quarter and that time off allowed us to come out and concentrate on what we had to do.”
And while the Pioneers finished strong, they had to fight an uphill battle in the first five minutes of the final stanza. Conestoga was called for three penalties in that span and was forced to play man-down defense for the majority of the opening minutes, severely limiting the squad’s offensive opportunities.
Springfield (10-1, 5-1) knotted the score at 8-8 with 9:42 left in the game when Bobby Gildea scored off a feed from Josh Cavanaugh on the left side. After the goal, the Cougars continued to retain possession and had several opportunities to strike again, but Conestoga goalie Pete Zonino and his comrades stood tall and prevented any further damage thanks to several key stops and aggressive but disciplined defense.
“Our defense rose to the challenge and our goalie made some great saves that really fired us up,” said Conestoga midfielder Jason Klunder, who finished with five points on two goals and three assists. “We also kept possession late and that was a big factor in us coming out on top.”
With 4:25 left in the game, the Pioneers made their move. On the heels of a Casey Ikeda caused turnover, Conestoga stormed down field and scored on transition when Matt Smith deposited a shot following a pass from fellow attacker Paul Mita. The goal put the Pioneers ahead and quickly shifted the momentum back on the home team’s side.
A little more than a minute later, Klunder responded with a goal of his own thanks to a nifty dodge move on the right side. The Pioneers made it 11-8 just 22 seconds after Klunder’s tally when Mita netted a score following a key face-off win by Ryan Buttenbaum. The late outburst by Conestoga proved to be too much for Springfield to handle.
“We played a very, very good Conestoga team and didn’t capitalize on a few man-ups and they certainly took advantage of our mistakes at the end,” said Springfield coach Mike Friel. “Conestoga makes very limited mistakes and will take advantage of yours.”
Joe Venit led the way for the Cougars with three goals while Gildea and teammate Colin Keegan combined for seven points. Netminder Austin Kaut also finished with seven saves for Springfield. Meanwhile, in addition to 11 combined points by Rogusky and Klunder, Mita and Ryan Lord added three points apiece.
With the victory, the Pioneers are riding high and confident heading into the final stretch of the season. But the squad is also careful not to get ahead of themselves and is keeping things in perspective, especially with tough upcoming tilts against undefeated St. Joseph’s Prep (Saturday at the Katie Samson Festival) and Central League contender Radnor (April 28).
Conestoga entered play No. 1 in the PA Media Rankings and eighth in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse National Power Rankings. The Power Rankings are updated every Thursday morning and Conestoga could move even closer to the top. (Springfield is third in the PA rankings and 24th in the Power Rankings).
“This win puts a target on us,” said Klunder, a junior. “Everyone knows that we have beaten a lot of good teams, we’re undefeated and in the national spotlight. But the key is to keep focus because we know now that everyone is going to be coming after us.”
But if Klunder and the Pioneers continue to play at the level they did against Springfield, even if it takes more than 19 hours, Conestoga will be in good position heading into the PIAA tournament come May.
Conestoga 12, Springfield (Delco) 9
Springfield 2 1 4 2 – 9
Conestoga 4 2 2 4 – 12
Springfield goals: Joe Venit 3, Colin Keegan 2, Bobby Gildea 2, Jordan Demcher, Josh Cavanaugh.
Conestoga goals: Austin Rogusky 3, Matt Smith 3, Ryan Lord 2, Jason Klunder 2, Paul Mita, Peter Bowers.
Goalie Saves: Austin Kaut (S) 7; Nick Shea (C) 2, Pete Zonino (C) 7.