By James Boyle
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/9/13
The first quarter today belonged to Episcopal Academy. Unfortunately for the Churchmen, the next three quarters belonged to visiting St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School (Va.) as EA saw its early lead disappear in an 8-5, season-opening loss.
Senior midfielder Tyler Chambers scored three goals to stake the Churchmen to a 5-1 first-quarter lead. But from the start of the second quarter to the end of regulation, the Saints made key stops on defense and converted on the other end. And it all began with St. Stephen’s starting goaltender Sam Beazell.
“It’s a testament to him,” said St. Stephen’s head coach Andy Taibl. “He’s a senior and he got off to a very rough start. We felt like he missed a couple that he should have stopped, and I saw him hanging his head a little bit. But he just continued to fight, and as we talk about all the time as a team, and individually, is that you keep working.”
Beazell certainly kept working, and it paid off for his team. The goalie stopped 14 shots despite the inauspicious start, including two difficult ones late in the fourth quarter.
Early on, St. Stephen’s looked sloppy. On the Saints’ first possession – already trailing 1-0 – they threw the ball away without attempting a shot.
But the winter cobwebs didn’t stick around for long, and the Saints’ offense started to generate more scoring opportunities against an Episcopal defense that looked intimidating at first.
The combination of Matthew Robinson, Kevin Gayhardt and Dante Addona certainly made life difficult for St. Stephen’s, but it couldn’t keep the Saints from finding the back of the net.
Though the trio’s play remained physical, the Saints’ attackers kept chipping away at the lead.
Miller got things going again for the Saints in the second quarter with an early goal, and helped shift the momentum in favor of his team. His third goal tied the game at 5-5 in the third quarter.
A combination of steady offensive possession by St. Stephen’s and Beazell’s ability to make stops on the defensive side of the ball led to a frustrating second half for Episcopal.
That frustration was evident when Churchmen goalie Brian Zappala’s pass – intended for an Episcopal midfielder – was intercepted by St. Stephen’s Lian Graham and was easily converted into the go-ahead goal.
Ian Strain, who was a force with 10 ground balls, just missed an opportunity to retie the game with a shot off the post.
“When it comes to ground balls, I think we were working hard,” said Strain. “But most of them come of face-offs. Matt Ernst really put on a show today, so that credit really goes to him.”
The last time these two teams met – March 24 of last season – Episcopal traveled to Virginia and came out on top, 8-4. This time around, it was St. Stephen’s that got to make the trek home after a win and “get a little revenge,” as Beazell put it.
Two more goals by Archer put the game out of reach. Archer’s first goal – a weaving run through traffic with the entire Episcopal defense draped on him – somehow found its way into the back of the net.
Isaiah Davis-Allen and Cory Harris scored St. Stephen’s other two goals.
A big reason the Churchmen were so successful early on is because of Matthew Ernst’s success on face-offs. Having backed up All-American Jon Garino last season, it was the junior’s first start for Episcopal, and he made it count. Ernst won six draws in the first half and finished the game with nine.
“I was getting a lot of draws. So, it helped us get the ball, get moving, come out hot right in the first quarter,” said Ernst. “I was just waiting for my spot, my shot to get out and I felt like I did a good job doing that.”
The Churchmen came up with 26 ground balls to St. Stephen’s 23. They also outshot their opponent 24-22.
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (Va.) 8, Episcopal Academy 5
Episcopal Academy 5-0-0-0 – 5
SS&SA 1-2-2-3- 8
EA goals: Tyler Chambers 3, Ian Strain 1, George Ortlieb
Assists: Curtis Zappala 1
Saves: Brian Zappala 5
St. Stephen’s goals: Goals: Seth Miller 3, Nate Archer 2, Isaiah Davis-Allen 1, Cory Harris 1, Lian Graham 1
Assists: Joe King 1
Saves: Sam Beazell 16
Tags: Episcopal Academy