By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/4/16
Strath Haven scored three straight goals midway through the fourth period and then held off District 1 champion Upper Dublin, 10-9, today in the PIAA boys’ lacrosse quarterfinals at Harriton.
The victory advanced the Panthers (19-6) into the semifinals Tuesday vs. Springfield-Delco, a 7-6 winner over Avon Grove, at Penncrest at 7 p.m
The Cards (21-3) had leads of 5-2 and 7-4, but the Panthers went on a 6-1 run at that point behind Jack Borbee (three goals, one assist), Will Huestis (two goals, three assists), Jake Ross (two goals) and Hunter Mazur (two goals).
Goals by Borbee, Ross and Borbee again tied it, 7-7. Michael Sowers (four goals, two assists) gave the Cards a, 8-7 lead early int he final period, but Mazur, Borbee and Huestis scored consecutive goals to make it 10-8 with 2:52 to play.
Michael Mullen (two goals) pulled the Cards within 10-9 with 1:15 to play and sophomore goalie Dillon Lojeski (17 saves) made two clutch saves to give the Cards a chance to tie, but the Strath Haven defense held and the Panthers gained possession for the final 38 seconds.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Huestis. “It’s a whole host of emotions. Not that we never thought we’d be here, but this is the whole season’s contamination. Everyone is putting in their work and doing their part and it’s really amazing.”
“We knew Upper Dublin had a few really good players that make everyone tick. We knew he (Michael Sowers) was bound to get his points, he is one of the best players in the country. We wanted to limit their opportunities. This team has a ton of energy and the bench gets hyped. We never felt like it wasn’t possible to come back.”
Ross said his team has learned to embrace the close games.
“We’re a team that grinds every day,” said Ross. “Nobody worked harder than us in the off-season; everyone worked in the gym and was shooting outside. It was all for being in games like this, down three goals twice.
“There’s no better adversity to face. I am so proud of my guys for dealing with it and working through the pressure. We’ve been a fourth quarter team all year we just own the quarter. With the energy we have nobody is more motivated than us. We actually prefer going in tied or close in the fourth because we know we are going to come out on top.”
Upper Dublin coach David Sowers said the biggest disappointment for the Cards was knowing their large group of seniors (14) would not play together again.
“It’s just (tough) to know it’s finally come to an end,” said Sowers, whose team has gone 75-13 the past four years. “It was one heck of a ride I am so proud of the kids. Our motto today was to fight until you can’t fight any more. We were down two goals with 1:30 and it shows the character of the kids how we came back.
“I think they’re upset because their careers have come to and end. They realize they will never play with this group that they’ve been playing with since they were 7 years old. It was not in the Cards. Strath Haven is a great team and they are well coached. It was deserving.”
Sowers noted that Upper Dublin struggled to maintain momentum after it took its three-goal leads.
“Each time we had a three-goal lead they would get some possessions and they would capitalize,” he said.
Upper Dublin defenseman Jack Rapine said the Panthers deserved the win. “They had a great game plan and they executed it very well. They just kept coming. We had answers and they kept coming back. Credit to them.”
Added Michael Sowers: “It’s tough tough thing. Strath Haven played one heck of game and it was their day today. They executed really well. Hats off to them they did a great job.”
Strath Haven coach Jef Hewlings, whose team plays only five seniors, said the group has relied on its closeness and clutch play all year.
“That’s what our team has been doing all year long,” he said. “Even in our losses – they grind they grind, they play together. They don’t get down on themselves, different guys make plays at different times.
“That’s what team lacrosse is about. Win or lose we are proud of them. This is huge for the program and huge for the Strath Haven community. There’s a lot of people following us this year because of what we’ve been able to build. They couldn’t be prouder and it gives me chills to coach this group.”
Rapine said he was proud of his team’s accomplishments.
“I take it positively,” he said. “We raised the bar for our generation of kids coming up. The elementary kids look up to us. Hopefully,y bring up just as much intensity.”
Added Michael Sowers: The cool thing is we’ll always be friends. We made so many great memories this season and I don’t think we’ll look back on the season and say it was a failure. We wanted to win a state title, but we had a ton of fun together and we definitely put the program on the map and that was the goal and set the stage for the younger kids coming through.”
Strath Haven 10, Upper Dublin 9
Strath Haven 2-2-3-3- 10
Upper Dublin 2-3-2-2- – 9
Jeff Conner 1a
Jack Borbee 3g, 1a
Will Huestis 2g, 3a
Hunter Mazur 2g, 1a
Will Bozentka 1g
Jake Ross 2g
Will Brake 5 saves
Michael Sowers 4g. 2a
Jerry Bardol 1a
Connor Wall 1g
Nick Vernacchio 1g
Michael Mullen 2g
Max Winebrake 1g
Dillon Lojeski 17 saves