By Pat White
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/2/13
Heading into the quarterfinals of the PIAA playoffs against Garnet Valley on Saturday at Henderson High, powerful La Salle found itself in a familiar position, battling for another state title. The Explorers claimed a 13-4 win over Garnet Valley to advance to Tuesday’s semifinals.
On the other side, Garnet Valley played under much less familiar circumstances – circumstances that a tight-knit, high school team should never have to experience.
The Jaguars battle transcended the scoreboard, the playoffs and lacrosse itself. They battled for their close friend and Glen Mills native Kip Taviano, who was killed Tuesday in a tragic car accident on Smithbridge Road near Garnet Valley High.
Taviano, 17, was a senior at the Haverford School and was set to play lacrosse at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. next year. Taviano was to be a Division I lacrosse player, but he was much more known as a popular friend and teammate as well as a brother and a son.
(A viewing will be held for Taviano today at the Pagano Funeral Home on 3711 Foulk Road in Garnett Valley, Pa. from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. A funeral will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle on 430 Valleybrook Road in Glen Mills.)
For Garnet Valley head coach and Taviano’s youth coach at Brandywine Youth Club, Frank Urso, it was the toughest week he said he has ever endured as a coach. Devising a scheme to defeat the high-powered Explorers should have been the main focus during the week.
But Urso had to take off his coaching hat and provide support, consolation and love for his team.
“It was about helping with their emotions and helping kids through difficult times,” Urso said about preparing for the game. “We shared emotions with them and also had to keep it in perspective. I have a lot of seniors and for them it was their last game and they are trying to deal with so much.”
Although he attended the Haverford School, Urso made it clear that Taviano was a Garnet Valley kid. “He’s our boy.” The Garnet Valley seniors grew up with Taviano and loved him as a person, teammate and brother.
“He was an awesome kid,” said Garnet Valley senior goalie Mitch Rose. “He literally did nothing wrong and no one has any bad memories of him. It was an honor to play for him and to represent him. I couldn’t have been any happier to have gotten to know him.”
Garnet Valley honored Taviano with a 9-5 win over Great Valley last Wednesday, just a day after Taviano’s passing. Urso was still in shock that his team could play – let alone win- against Great Valley. Rose, said there was a lot of passion in the victory, but riding that passion into the La Salle game was difficult against a good team.
“We wanted this game just as much as we wanted the last one, but we didn’t have our best game,” Rose said.
The loss to La Salle wasn’t due to a lack of passion or effort. The Jaguars fought for every inch for the entire game. They simply fell to a superior team. Urso and the coaching staff could tell during warm-ups that the team was out of gas following the emotional week.
The stands at J. Oscar Dicks Stadium at Henderson High School were filled with shirts and banners to support Taviano. Taviano’s Twitter handle “@KipTav” was printed on the front with “#10ve” and Taviano’s number “10” on the back.
La Salle had a 10-0 lead at halftime, but even more impressive was the outcry of support for Garnet Valley during the break. The crowd broke out into “Play for Kip” chants that tugged on the heartstrings of all in attendance.
Down by a large margin, it would have been easy for the Jags to give up and accept a certain defeat. But not this team. Not this game. They weren’t playing for a win anymore. They were playing for Kip Taviano, and it was obvious by the second half effort in which Garnet Valley outscored La Salle, 4-3.
It was only fitting that Garnet Valley was led on offense by the seniors. Brock D’Annunzio scored two goals and Jake Snow and Jonathan Vandenburg added the others.
The 13-4 loss meant a lot less given the heavy hearts Garnet Valley played with. Senior Matt Taulane was proud of the Jaguars’ season and the way they rallied in Taviano’s honor.
“It was a privilege and an honor to play for our buddy Kip,” Taulane said, doing his best to hold back his emotions. “We pulled together and played strong for him the second half.”
Prior to the game, Garnet Valley took the team bus to the Taviano’s house with a banner for Kip. It was an emotional pregame ceremony, but the outpouring of love and support for the Taviano family and the team was what resonated with the team.
“We cheered for Kip, prayed for Kip and got on the bus to come [to the field],” Urso said. “We heard [the cheers], we’ve been driving it. Win or lose, it was for Kip and the kids did the best they could.”
The Garnet Valley community could not have honored Kip Taviano any better than what they did on Saturday. The community congregated at a lacrosse field, Taviano’s sanctuary, to remember and honor a first-class person, as described by those who knew him.
“You can tell from the community’s response, how quickly everyone came together and how much they loved Kip,” Rose said. “I am so thankful to be part of such a community and happy that everyone responded the way they did.”
Garnet Valley shared laughs, tears and hugs as it exited the field. The genuine familial bond of the team was clear and the support was evident.
What Garnet Valley showed as a team and community was much bigger than a lacrosse program. It was a family honoring the loss of a brother, who now looks down on them.
Tags: Garnet Valley