By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/24/12
Matt Rambo just wanted another chance to prove himself.
Despite being one of only three rising seniors on the Philly All-Stars team that faced the U.S. National U19 team Saturday night at Radnor High, the two-time La Salle All-American needed another crack.
Another crack at a big-time goal, one that eluded him with time dwindling down in regulation of a tie game when he cranked a shot off the left post.
Another crack at proving his abilities against a team of some of the finest U19 players in the country, a team he won’t have a shot at trying out for.
He got it.
After Team Philly won a faceoff in the second overtime frame of international rules, it called a timeout to talk things over. When the squad emerged from its brief meeting, it was Rambo, not any of the recently graduated seniors or college freshmen or sophomores on the team, entrusted with the last shot. As he has so many times during his career as an Explorer, Rambo made no mistake with it, ripping a lefty shot past USA goalie Zach Oliveri with 9.8 seconds to go to seal Philly’s 15-14 win over USA.
According to officials, it is the first time that the U19 team (36-0 in International competition) has ever lost a game, including exhibitions.
“I had to make up for that post shot in the beginning,” said Rambo, a Maryland verbal commit who finished with four goals. “I was just going, and they didn’t really slide hard, so I just put it bottom corner because (Oliveri) stopped me twice high earlier.
“You’ve got to know to go low if he’s stopped you twice high already. I was pumped. I looked up at the clock, and there, like, eight seconds left, and I just thought, ‘Oh my God.’”
Saturday’s game, which featured a large crowd, was a fundraiser for the U19 team as it gears for the World Championships July 12-21 at Turku, Finland. The event was sponsored by the Philadelphia Lacrosse Association and US Lacrosse.
Heading into that final timeout, Rambo didn’t expect to be the go-to guy with the game on the line. Instead, he found himself pleasantly surprised when given an opportunity to be the hero for Philly.
“It feels great. I didn’t think they were going to pick me,” Rambo said. “They kept throwing me on for the sixth guy, so I was pumped about it. If they kept doing that, I’ve got to show my coach some respect and get it done for him. …I”m a lefty, I thought they were going to force me right, but they forced me left and I just shot it low.”
After Philly saw its 7-3 halftime lead transform into an 11-11 draw at the end of regulation, it could have been demoralized, and when USA took a 13-11 lead in the first OT thanks to Steven Pontrello’s (St. Augustine Prep) sizzler of a shot that found its way past 2011 Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year Conor Kelly (Haverford School/Notre Dame, eight saves), Philly was in trouble.
But Joey Sankey (Penn Charter/North Carolina) scored a huge man-up goal, and Carl Walrath (Haverford School/Virginia) took a feed from ACC Freshman of the Year Goran Murray (Haverford School/Maryland) and scored with three seconds left. When USA pushed its lead back to one off a Daniel Eipp goal, Philly roared back. Hup Hupfeldt (Haverford School/Penn) was stoned on a one-on-one situation, but Beau Jones (Germantown Academy/Delaware) buried a rebound to tie it and set up Rambo’s heroics.
“(Oliveri) was looking around for the ball, and it just happened to be right in front of me, so I just picked it up and put it in,” said Jones, who finished with three goals and an assist, including a jawdropping behind-the-back goal off a Walrath feed.
The victory was somewhat of a vindication for Team Philly. There has been much talk that the US roster has no Philly players (three remain as alternatives), though it must be noted that many of the top Philly grads from last year missed the cutoff age for trying out. Still, the Philly guys proved their mettle in a back-and-forth game that could have seen them fold up shop after losing a four-goal halftime lead and trailing by two in overtime.
“It absolutely feels good,” Jones said of beating the players picked ahead of him. “I think all the players that made the U.S. team were worthy of making it, but it was definitely very rewarding for us to get the ‘W’ against them.”
Walrath, a player who could not try out because of the cutoff date, and he admitted that it’s something that weighed on his mind.
“I would have loved to try out, but it is what it is,” said Walrath, who finished with three goals and two assists Saturday. “But of course, I always want to come out and give it my best effort. Yes, it was (a chance to prove something), but not any different than it would be if we were playing the No. 1 team in the country or any other great team.”
With Philly trying to stake its claim as one of the top lacrosse areas in the country, chalk up a historic win to bolster the argument.
Philly All-Stars 15, Team USA 14
Philly All-Stars 3 4 3 1 2 2 – 15
Team USA 3 0 4 4 2 1 – 14
Carl Walrath (Haverford School/Virginia) 3g, 2a
Matt Rambo (La Salle/Maryland) 4g
Beau Jones (Germantown Academy/Delaware) 3g, 1a
Joey Sankey (Penn Charter/North Carolina) 3g
Hup Hupfeldt (Haverford School/Penn) 2g
Matt Barrett (Malvern Prep/Virginia) 6 saves
Conor Kelly (Haverford School/Notre Dame) 8 saves
Connor Buczek (St. Xavier/Cornell) 1g
Matthew Kavanagh (Chaminade/Notre Dame) 5g
Steven Pontrello (St. Augustine Prep) 3g
Stephen Kelly (Calvert Hall) 1a
Matthew Florence (Kent Denver) 1a
Joseph Leonard (Hicksville) 1a
Kyle Keenan (Smithtown West/Duke) 1g
Ryan Tucker (Gilman/Virginia) 1g
Charles Raffa (St. Anthony’s/Maryland) 1g
Daniel Eipp (Groton Dunstable/Harvard) 1g
Kyle Turri (West Islip/Duke) 6 saves
Zachary Oliveri (Connetquot/UMass) 9 saves