By Teddy Bailey (@TheTeddyBailey)
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/26/16
Upper Dublin entered the district playoffs with just two regular season blemishes against Springfield and Avon Grove.
The Cardinals, playing in a Suburban One League more known for its football than its lacrosse, outscored opponents 371-77 this season.
After avenging their loss to Springfield-Delco in the district semifinals, the Cardinals were able to silence the skepticism for good against Avon Grove in the title game.
Sowers, a Princeton commit, collected 2 goals and 4 assists while senior midfielder Nick Vernacchio tallied four goals to earn Upper Dublin’s first district championship in school history, 12-7 Thursday at West Chester Henderson.
“There’s not many times where you get to close a book on two losses,” Michael Sowers said. “This is awesome. We get so much crap from pretty much everybody, saying how we don’t play anybody, how we’re winning 22-1. We hate it too, we’d rather be playing these games. So to come out here and beat a great team, it’s awesome.”
Avon Grove played like a seasoned group before being limited by the daunting Upper Dublin defense of Rocky Wright, Jack Rapine and Dillon Lojeski in goal. Jake Smith’s second goal helped the Red Devils tie the game at five with 6:43 left in the first half.
Strikes from Michael Mullen (two goals) and Vernacchio gave the Cardinals a 7-5 lead at the break.
Vernacchio was not done on the attack, however. The St. Joseph’s signee put the Cardinals up for good with a momentum-swaying goal at the third quarter buzzer – assisted by Sowers for the 10-7 lead. Upper Dublin, holding for lengthy possession, scored the only two goals of the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t sure how much time was left,” Vernacchio said. “We were kind of just freeballing it. Mike, being the great player that he is, found me in the crease. It was a small window, I guess I just finished it.”
At the X, Avon Grove sophomore FOGO Nate Hammond dominated the combination of Upper Dublin’s Jack Rapine and Connor Wall to the tune of 17/24 draws. Rapine, an All-American defender and a Johns Hopkins signee, held his own down the stretch.
Upper Dublin will now face Cumberland Valley (District 3’s third-place team) in the first round with three games to follow before the state title game. Avon Grove, meanwhile, will begin its own journey of a state championship against District 4 champion Lewisburg (14-3). Both games will be played Wednesday at sites to be determined.
“It’s just surreal,” Vernacchio said. “Getting to this point has been our goal all four years. Win a district title, hopefully get into the state bracket, and win a state title. This is the first step of our journey and it’s just incredible.”
For the Sowers trio of Michael, Nick (sophomore defender) and Dave (head coach), the family aspect has added an extra element to Upper Dublin’s magical run.
“This is something that we don’t just talk about on the field, but at the house, at the dinner table,” Michael said. “It’s one thing to say it, but to finally do it is awesome.”
UD: 2-5-3-2 – 12
AG: 3-2-2-0 – 7
Nick Vernacchio: 4G
Michael Sowers: 2G, 4A
Max Winebrake: 2G, 1A
Michael Mullen: 2G
Evan Scott: 1G
Jack Rapine: 1G
Gerry Bardol: 2A
Dillon Lojeski: 9 saves
Jake Smith: 2G
Doug Jones: 4A
Beau Kush: 1G, 1A
Brendan Harman: 2G, 1A
Bryce Reid: 1G
Zach Augustine: 1G
Andrew Spencer: 5 saves