By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/4/16
Kyle Long scored the game-winner with 41 seconds left and Springfield-Delco used a stingy defense and strong goaltending from James Spence today to topple Avon Grove, 7-6, in the PIAA quarterfinals at Harriton.
The Cougars (18-7), the District 1 third seed, will face familiar foe Strath Haven – a 10-9 winner over Upper Dublin – in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Springfield and Strath Haven have split their two games this year – the Cougars won the District 1 third-place game, 5-4, 10 days ago and fell to the Panthers, 7-5, in an early-season Central League game.
The Cougars stymied the potent Avon Grove (19-3) attack most of the game and led, 6-2, until late in the third period when Doug Jones (one goal, one assist) scored with 12 seconds left in the quarter. It was still 6-3 before the Devils’ Beau Kush erupted for three straight goals from X in a span of 2:01, tying it with 1:24 to play.
But after Spence (nine saves) and the Cougar defense held, Long scored the go-ahead tally.
“It was a setup down the alley to go left to right,” said Long, who also had two assists. “There was a pick in the middle and (the defender) forced me down the left alley and it was a shot I work on all the time. I knew I could get it done so I pulled the trigger.”
Springfield-Delco coach Tom Lemieux credited the goaltending of Spence and the Cougar defense, which featured Zac Methlie, Pat Smyth, Nick Matty and Pat Clemens as well as defensive middies Mat Ries and Mike Vent.
“They like to set a lot of screens and picks and get guys open by getting their hands free for shots,” said Methlie. “We knew it was coming every single time so we jumped out and didn’t allow them to get open looks. James played amazing; with a goalie like that we’re going to go pretty far.”
Mike Gerzabek scored three goals to stake the Cougars to a 4-2 halftime lead and Vent scored twice to make ti 6-2 late in the third period.
The Cougars started the year 1-5 and have gone 17-2 since.
“It’s kind of unreal,” said Methlie. “I remember when we lost to Spring-Ford, 15-3 (in the season’s third game). The feeling was that this season was over, but then the next day at practice we picked it back up and kept working and and things started clicking. Before you know it, we got hot and started winning games. Now we know we can compete with the best of teams out here.”
Added Long: “We started off 1-5 and not a lot of people outside of the team thought this was anything but a rebuilding year for us. But we got some guys back from injuries. We thought we could take a run and we’re we’re hot at the right time right now.”
Lemieux said his team has jelled at the right time.
“The kids believe in each other,” he said. “That (Avon Grove) is a heck of a team that is well-coached and has a ton of talent. We’re not going to win a game like that unless everyone is buying into it. We’re not the most talented team out here, but we believe, we fight and I think we’re pretty tough.”
Lemieux said his defensive middies, Ries and Vent, give him flexibility to natch up with teams that have many scorers. And knowing All-American Spence is in the goal is helpful to the team’s confidence.
“We are fundamentally sound and we have the best goalie in the country and with that we can beat anybody,” he said. “It’s more than just lacrosse; it’s the relationship, we’re a tight group.”
Avon Grove coach Eric Jackson credited the Cougars’ defense, but was proud of his team’s comeback and what the Devils accomplished – a Ches-Mont League title and a trip to the District 1 finals despite several injuries to elite players such as defenseman Nick Cardile.
“They had a nice packed in defense and an unbelievable goalie,” said Jackson. “I thought we were sloppy through a lot of the game. We hung in there; they are well coached and disciplined and you can’t make mistakes against a good team like that.
“Our guys never quit and that’s what I am most proud of. Every year I see the heart and passion of the kids; they love to play with each other and it’s a lot of fun to coach kids like that. We’re banged up and I am just proud of the next guys that came in and had to fill different roles. It’s kind of changed things at this stage of the game. It’s not easy and the team responded well.”
Springfield-Delco 7, Avon Grove 6
Springfield-Delco 3-1-2-1- 7
Avon Grove 1-1-1-3- 6
Mike Gerzabek 3g
Mike Vent 2g
Kyle Long 1g, 2a
Joe DeBernardi 1g, 1a
Matt Ries 1a
Nick Martin 1a
James Spence 9 saves
Beau Kush 3g
Doug Jones 1g, 1a
Jake Smith 1g
Zach Augustine 1g
Nate Hammond 12 of 16 FO
Andrew Spencer 5 saves