By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse, Posted 4/11/11
When you think of the power program in Philly boys’ lacrosse, you talk first about Haverford School, Conestoga, La Salle and Malvern Prep.
What about St. Joseph’s Prep?
Hawks’ coach Eric Gregg made his plea Saturday after his team nearly pulled off a major victory before bowing to Haverford School – the nation’s top-ranked team – 9-8 in overtime.
“The bottom line is, we didn’t win,” Gregg said. “But at the end of the day, I am proud of these guys.
“We feel we don’t get the respect we deserve. Hopefully after today, we’ll be spoken in the same sentences as Haverford School and Conestoga, and the rest of the top teams.”
Indeed, since Gregg became St Joe’s coach in 2009, the Hawks (4-2 this year, ranked No. 22 by ESPN RISE) have made their mark against big-time programs. They were the ones that handed Conestoga its first defeat two years ago in a dramatic overtime win at the Katie Samson Festival.
And last year the Hawks beat the likes of state quarterfinalist Emmaus as well as Episcopal Academy and Malvern Prep – not to mention Long Island power St. Anthony’s.
This year St. Joe’s opened by giving Conestoga – now the No. 2 team in the nation according to ESPN RISE – all it could handle in an 12-9 defeat.
On Saturday, St. Joe’s brought a couple hundred members of its student body, all decked out and rowdy due to a growing rivalry with Haverford School. The Hawks’ players were ready to play and held a 7-5 lead in the fourth period behind a suffocating defense, strong goaltending and solid work on man-up situations. Even after the Fords went ahead, 8-7, late in the game, Cory Scheuerle sent it into OT with an unforgettable behind-the-back goal.
The St. Joe’s goalie, Liam Correia, who is not playing college lacrosse next year, played like a D1 keeper by making 22 saves, many of them huge. Unfortunately for he and his Hawks, the Fords are a brilliant team with arguably more talent than anyone has ever seen in this region.
Of course, the Hawks will always be judged by their success – or lack of success – against La Salle, a team that has defeated The Prep the last seven years in the Catholic League title game and 13 times overall.
In 2008, the Prep nearly had La Salle beaten in the Catholic League finals, but fell, 6-5. In 2009 the Hawks had another great chance to dethrone the Explorers before falling, 4-3, when a few hard shots found the pipes. La Salle went on to take its second straight state title as the lone District 12 qualifier. And last year La Salle beat St. Joe’s, 7-5, in the Catholic League/District 12 finals, before moving on to the state finals again.
This Wednesday at Plymouth Whitemarsh (6:30 p.m.), the Hawks will have another chance to beat La Salle in a regular season game. For once, the Hawks could almost be called favorites since they are ranked so high and have looked so good against top teams and La Salle is just beginning to look like itself after an 0-3 start.
“The way we play Wednesday will correlate to how we play in the Catholic League championship,” Correia said after Saturday’s loss. “They (The Fords) are the No. 1 team in the nation and we stood toe-to-toe with them the entire game.
“But our main focus is the game Wednesday against La Salle. We re going to forget about this and put it in the past and focus on that.”
Is this the year for St. Joe’s to get out from under the shadows?
Stay tuned for Wednesday.