By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/24/12
Conestoga’s 11-10 come-from-behind victory over top-ranked Calvert Hall Friday night will go down in history as one of the biggest wins ever for a Philly lacrosse team on the national scale.
The two-time state champion Pioneers rallied from a 10-5 deficit to defeat the undefeated and No. 1 Cardinals on their home turf in Towson, Md.
The win is sure to vault Conestoga to the top or near the top of all national rankings. The Pioneers entered play this week at No. 3 in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse Power Rankings and No. 4 in the MaxPreps.com poll.
“It was surreal,” said Conestoga senior attackman Connor Frisina. “It was easily the biggest game I have ever been a part of. I work up this morning thinking it was all a dream. It was an awesome experience.”
Bradlee Lord led Conestoga’s attack with a brilliant five-goal effort, including the game-winner with 2:21 to play off a man-up feed from Frisina (one goal, three assists). Tyler Brooke added three goals while Adam Goins and defenseman Nick Reitnour each scored once.
The Cardinals (3-1) had taken the seemingly overwhelming 10-5 lead by scoring four quick goals to open the second half. But Frisina said the Pioneers – making their season debut – were undaunted.
“Before they got that (four-goal) streak, we were real confident (offensively) because we were moving off the ball and we liked our matchups,” he said. “Every time we had the ball down there, we had a productive offensive possession so we knew if we could get the ball down there we could come back.”
The problem was that Calvert Hall junior sensation Stephen Kelly (20 of 22 face-offs) was winning nearly every draw. Finally, the Pioneers won a face-off and Lord fed Brooke for a goal that made it 10-6 and began to change the momentum. Brooke later tied it late in the fourth period before Lord had the game-winner.
Lord scored late in the third period to draw the Pioneers within 10-7. Then the Pioneers’ pressure defense began taking over and giving possession back to the attack. The defense was led by senior LSM Miles Thomas and close defenseman Jamie Ikeda.
“Our defense stepped up!” said Frisina. “Miles Thomas played out of his mind and Jamie was amazing.
“We started to get good shots and everything started to click. We knew we could come back even though that was such a good team – they were ranked No. 1 in the nation.”
Now, the Pioneers are poised to become the top-ranked team in at least one poll. Last year Conestoga, which won its second straight Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association championship, was ranked No. 2 in several polls behind Philly rival Haverford School.
“It’s great for Conestoga to see our name up there,” said Frisina. “This year we have something different to shoot for. We actually have an opportunity to be considered the best team in the country, which would be something we are all going to stirve for.
“We don’t want to listen to the rankings or get too cocky. If we stay focused and play one game at a time this year … I think we have a special team.”
Conestoga coach Brian Samson credited the Conestoga defense and pointed out the remarkable play by Thomas – who is replacing a two-time All-American and a Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year in Brian Dailey – and Ikeda. Both of them also contributed on the face-off wings to help neutralize the brilliance of Kelly, a USA U-19 member.
The defense also got key efforts from Carson Scott, Zach Paro, Reitnour, Nick Prestipino, and Ryan Langerhans as well a short stick d-middies Jordan Klunder and Andrew Andrew Destefano. goalie Robbie Zonino (six saves) came up big when needed.
“I think it validates all the hard work that everybody puts in,” Samson said. “From the players to the coaches it’s a real source of pride to know we are seeing the benefits of all the time that gets put into this.
“We’re excited and we’ll gain confidence from it, but the bullseye is even brighter and bigger.”
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