By David Kurtz of PAC-10Sports.com
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/9/14
Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts have staged some white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat championship finishes in recent years.
Last-second goals, double-overtime wins and riveting theater have all been commonplace for the two PAC-10 powerhouses, who’ve met in every league final since the inception of the Final Four playoff structure eight years ago.
But Thursday night at Spring-Ford, there was no such drama. Quentin Tarantino had nothing to do with this vanilla script.
The host Rams (18-2 oveall) collected five straight goals during a momentum-swinging run in the second quarter en route to their fourth straight crown, hoisting of the hardware again after a convincing 15-8 triumph over the second-seeded Wildcats (15-4).
Matt Messerle was simply magnificent in goal with 19 saves and Kevin Todd (4 goals, assist), Alex Marte (3 goals, assist) and Alec Orcutt (3 goals) keyed an electric attack that helped Spring-Ford complete a perfect run through the league at the end of a 14-0 regular season.
“Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due,” said OJR coach Jeff Neese, whose club had dropped 10-7 and 9-7 decisions to the Rams during the regular season. “Skill-wise and physically, they came out and took it to us. They played a good game.”
Messerle was miles ahead of good Thursday. Fronted by a cohesive defensive cast that included Brandon Dougherty, Connor Crawford, Liam Hare and LSM Parker Harter and Tyler German, the senior and verbal commit to Division III Goucher (Md.) College, played all 48 minutes with poise and pluck. The wire-to-wire performance was a diversion from the normal MO at Spring-Ford, where Messerle usually plays the first half before yielding to another outstanding senior goalie – Greg Bresnan.
But with the Rams holding a 10-5 halftime lead on the strength of the second-period run and Messerle obviously in the zone, Spring-Ford coach Kevin Donnelly decided to rethink his normal strategy.
“That was a difficult decision because we have two excellent goalies,” said Donnelly. “But I decided to keep Matt in the game – he had been lights-out in the first half.
”I had watched Denver change goalies at halftime last year in the NCAA championship game, and they ended up losing it, so that was in the back of my head.”
Messerle was also in the head of the OJR shooters, who fired 45 shots that were either high, wide or turned away by Messerle.
“I gave up a couple of early goals, but once I got my first save, I was locked in,” said Messerle. “I knew that if they were going to beat me, it would have to be a great shot. My defense was unbelievable. They gave me room to see the shots that I could save.”
Fueled by the hot start of brothers Chris Antich (3 goals, 2 assists) and Eric Antich (2 goals), who were on the scoring or assisting end of the first four OJR goals, the Cats were down 5-4 before Spring-Ford started getting its swerve on.
Todd and Orcutt delivered two goals apiece and Marte had the other strike in a span of 4:23 to boost the Rams’ lead to 10-4. OJR would get as close as 10-7 on Sam Garges’ unassisted goal with 4:33 left in the third quarter, but Messerle came up with a pair of ESPN-worthy saves in the last 50 seconds of the frame to help maintain the three-goal cushion.
A goal by Krieble and pair of strikes from Todd stretched the advantage to 15-8 with 4:41 left, and the fourth straight trip to midfield for the championship plaque presentation was moments away for Spring-Ford.
“The momentum completely shifted in the second quarter when we started clicking and playing as a unit,” said Todd, a sophomore. “Going into the season we weren’t sure what we had, but our work effort, starting in August, was 10 times better than last year.
“Winning the league again and going through (the PAC-10) season undefeated were goals of ours, but we don’t want to stop here. We have the belief that we can beat any team.”
That quiet self-confidence was apparent in the dominating win.
“We were playing as a team, playing together,” said Donnelly. “We were cutting, passing and getting off good shots, and Matt played great. It was a complete team effort.”
NOTES: OJR won the stat battle with advantages of 21-18 in groundballs and 45-27 in shots … The Wildcats will tune up for the District 1-AAA playoffs Saturday night (7 p.m.) by hosting tough Holy Ghost Prep. Spring-Ford will be off until the playoffs get underway Tuesday …. Nice on Messerle: “That was the best I’ve ever seen in play. He came up huge, and was the main difference in the game.” … Spring-Ford now has five PAC-10 championships while OJR owns three titles during the current playoff system. The Rams have now won in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2007 (first year), with the Cats bringing home the crown three straight years from 2008-10.
(1) Spring-Ford 15, (2) Owen J. Roberts 8
Owen J. Roberts 3 2 2 1 – 8
Spring-Ford 5 5 1 4 – 15
Owen J. Roberts
Chris Antich 3g, 2a
Jack Colt 1a
Eric Antich 2g
Sam Garges 2g 2a
Matt Tordone 1g
Christian Wood 7 saves
Alec Orcutt 3g
Alex Marte 3g 1a
Jake Hvazda 1g 3a
Brian Gryscavage 1g
Kevin Todd 4g 1a
Danny Krieble 2g, 1a
Carter Gensler 1a
Zach Hare 1g
Matt DellaCroce 1a
Matt Messerle 19 saves
PAC-10Sports.com and Phillylacrosse.com are content sharing partners