By Bradley Schlegel
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/11/16
Mike Gerzabek scored three goals and Springfield-Delco’s vaunted defense shined as the Cougars defeated La Salle, 4-3, today for the PIAA championship at West Chester East.
Joe Debarnardi also scored and James Spence recorded seven saves as the Cougars (20-7) raced to a 3-0 first-period lead and held on for their fourth state title overall.
Springfield-Delco captured the Avery F. Blake Memorial trophy as Philadelphia Region and state champs, in 1978, 1982 and 1992. The Cougars were competing in their first PIAA championship appearance after reaching the semifinals last year.
“I’m living a dream,” Gerzabek said. “This is a crazy feeling.”
Gerzabek gave the Cougars a 4-2 lead late in the first half of this tense defense-dominated game. The Explorers (21-4) – making their fifth PIAA finals appearance – pulled within 4-3 when Jared walls scooped a groundball and went coast-to-coast with 7 minutes to play.
Christopher Hladczuk and Colin Cahill scored for the Explorers (21-4), who got within 3-2 late in the second quarter and 4-3 late in the game, but could never forge a tie despite dominating at the face-off X and having the ball most of the game.
La Salle attempted to rally in the final minute, firing multiple shots towards Spence (seven saves). But a turnover allowed the Cougars to kill the clock.
“I can’t put this into words,” said Cougars coach Tom Lemeiux, whose team started the year 1-5 and won 19 of their last 21 games. “We spent so much time with the guys preparing them to do this.
“Winning means so much.”
Springfield’s fast start occurred while La Salle held out 10 seniors – including three starters – for what Explorers coach Bill Leahy said was “an in-house topic.”
“I am very proud of them. We didn’t shoot very well if you don’t shoot well against a very good goalie it’s hard to win.”
On holding out the players, Leahy said: “It’s an in-house topic. We did things the right way and I am proud of them; I’m proud of our staff.”
“The 3-0 lead was exactly what we were looking for,” said senior defensive standout Pat Smyth, who led a unit that featured Zac Methlie, Nick Matty and Pat Clemens as well as defensive middies Matt Ries and Mike Vent.
Gerzabek converted from the right slot less than four minutes into the game. Joe Debarnardi converted a pass from Kyle Long four minutes later. Long then set up Gerzabek for his second goal with 2:29 remaining in the quarter.
“My role is a shooter,” Gerzabek said. “I like to shoot. Kyle feeds the ball to me. We were able to take advantage of out early opportunities.”
Consecutive goals by Chris Hladczuk and Colin Cahill brought the Explorers within 3-2 late in the second quarter. According to Spence their offensive runs displayed an sense of urgency.
“They were going harder to goal in an attempt to make up for the first quarter,” Spence said.
But Gerzabek utilized his athleticism to extend Springfield’s lead to 4-2 with 25.1 seconds left. The attacker scooped up a loose ball, slipped through two defenders and beat La Salle goalkeeper Michael Clibanoff with a short shot.
Defense dominated a scoreless second half. However, the intensity level never dropped, according to Smyth.
“There no time to relax in a state title game,” he said.
According to Spence, a victory over Upper Dublin late in the regular season, followed by wins over Haverford and Spring-Ford in the District 1 playoff, provided Springfield’s players with the confidence to make a deep run in the state tournament.
“This is an incredible dream come true,” Spence said.
Leahy said his team had its chances to score.
“We threw the ball away a couple times; they scored each time,” he said of the first period run by the Cougars. “At the end of the day we had 48 minutes on offense and put three goals in.
“We didn’t score enough goals, not even close. We didn’t shoot well, we just didn’t look like us – to their credit. They were an excellent team and well coached.”
Springfield-Delco 3 1 0 0 — 4
La Salle 0 2 0 1 — 3
Mike Gerzabek 3g
Joe Dibarnardi 1g
Kyle Long 2a
James Spence 7
Christopher Hladczuk 1g
Colin Cahill 1g
Brett Baskin 1a.
Jared Walls 1g
Matthew McLaren 7, Michael Clibanoff 1.