By Adam C. Warner
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/7/2009
With four separate winning streaks of two games or more and a midseason four-game slide, it’s safe to say it’s been an up-and-down year for Stephen Aitken, Dan Wigrizer and the Haverford School lacrosse team.
But after Wednesday’s defining performance, the Fords may be riding high from here on out.
With the score deadlocked and their opponent primed for a win and a piece of the Inter-Ac League title, the Fords fended off a pair of third quarter penalties before scoring four consecutive goals en route to a 7-4 victory Wednesday over league rival Episcopal Academy at Sonje Field.
“They beat us earlier in the season (5-4 on April 14) and so we wanted to get our revenge; and that’s exactly what we got,” said Wigrizer, who made nine saves in the win for Haverford. “We came out strong; we came out firing, went hard throughout the entire game and came out on top.”
The victory puts Haverford (13-8 overall, 5-2 league) – ranked seventh in the PA Media Rankings – in position to win at least a share of the Inter-Ac League championship. The Fords close their league slate Saturday at fourth-place Germantown Academy.
As for No. 6 Episcopal (11-7, 5-3), with no remaining league contests, the Churchmen can only sit back and hope that Haverford and Malvern Prep (4-2 league) stumble in the late going.
Haverford School, however, is peaking at the right time.
“We have learned to overcome adversity this year,” said Aitken, who finished with a game-high three goals, including two in the crucial third quarter. “We have a really young team, especially on offense, and as the season went on, we gained experience, and that has helped us for situations like this.”
Things looked dour for the Fords early in the third quarter with the game knotted at 2-2. Senior defender Anthony Martino was called for a two-minute penalty due to a rough hit on Episcopal midfielder John Gormley that knocked him from the game with eight minutes and 23 seconds left. Tack on an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Haverford coaching staff and the Fords found themselves down two men for at least one minute.
But thanks to aggressive stickwork and well-executed slides on defense that forced the opposition to the outside, Haverford held Episcopal to just one shot before securing possession and setting up its offense. Immediately, the Fords slowed the pace down and used the momentum to their advantage, scoring three goals in the final five minutes of the stanza to storm out to a 5-2 lead.
“Stopping the penalty was crucial,” said Aitken, a junior. “We had two penalties and two men down and the defense came up huge and gave the ball back to the offense, which took care of business after that. The defense really got us the momentum towards scoring those goals.”
Aitken provided the go-ahead score at the 4:54 mark before Matt Walters scored just 1:12 later. Aitken’s second tally followed and enabled the Fords to take a commanding three-goal lead.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Episcopal looked to make a run but was met nearly at every turn. Due to an aggressive and effective Haverford defense spearheaded by Wigrizer, the Fords thwarted any comeback.
Following a Wigrizer stop with eight minutes to go, Aitken sealed it with a blast at 6:58 on a well executed backdoor cut and curl. With a 6-2 edge midway through the fourth, the Fords never looked back.
“We won almost every face-off today, so Episcopal played a bunch of defense and I think they just got tired and were pressing,” Haverford head coach John Nostrant said. “We did a better job of dodging with our heads up and finding the open guys. We had some great looks that we didn’t finish. I think that we just wore them down a little bit.”
The Fords stormed out to a 2-0 first quarter lead thanks to scores by Joe O’Rourke and Brendan McGrath. The damage could have been greater if it were not for the steady goaltending by Episcopal senior Matthew Lerman, who made four saves in the opening stanza. Lerman finished with 11 stops altogether.
And with Lerman and the Episcopal defense doing its part early, the Churchmen clawed their way back with scores by Gerry Smith and Tyler Olsen, tying the game heading into intermission.
While Episcopal must wait and see about where they will ultimately finish, they still need to regroup with two regular season games to go and an Inter-Ac postseason tournament looming.
“We didn’t execute today, especially on the offensive end,” Episcopal coach Andy Hayes said. “I thought our defense and goalie played great, but we turned the ball over way too much today. That’s the bottom line.”
Haverford School 7, Episcopal Academy 4
Haverford 2 0 3 2 – 7
Episcopal 1 1 0 2 – 4
Haverford goals: Aitken 3, O’Connor, McGrath, Walters, O’Rourke.
Episcopal goals: Olsen, Isdaner, Smith, Albert.
Goalie saves: Wigrizer (H) 9; M. Lerman (E) 11.