By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/20/17
It’s safe to take a breath, Culver Academy (IN).
A win looked like a foregone conclusion Friday night for the Eagles when they lead Episcopal Academy by five goals in the Inter-Ac Invitational semifinal at Cabrini heading into the fourth quarter.
It took Jackson Reid running around the Churchmen’s side of the field and drawing a pair of penalties to cement a 6-5 win over EA for the right to play Haverford School in Sunday night’s championship game. The Fords, who handed the Eagles their lone loss of the season in March, and Culver will play at 5 at Haverford School, a late change from Kelly Field in West Chester.
The Eagles (20-1, No. 2 in the C2C North America Rankings) looked to be in cruise control after Reid’s second of the game made it 6-1 in the third quarter, but Nate Emrick put the Churchmen on his back – and then some. The senior buried all four fourth-quarter goals for EA, the second and fourth of which will surely find their way onto the Muhlenberg commit’s highlight reel.
Emrick’s fourth goal came when he dove forward just outside the crease and tucked in a shot past Matt Schmidt (eight saves). Jack Henderson claimed the ensuing faceoff, too, but the Churchmen (11-5) couldn’t maintain possession. They nearly got the ball back when surefire All-American LSM Conner Delaney knocked it loose in front of the Culver bench, but the Eagles called timeout a split-second before.
“We fought back,” Emrick said. “We faced adversity before and I knew if I didn’t do something, this was going to be the last quarter of my life at EA. I just went all-out and did what I could, but we came up short.”
On the other side, Reid and Schmidt both admitted that Culver got a little nervous when the Churchmen made it 6-5, especially when Henderson won his biggest faceoff of the night.
“That was tough,” said Reid, who scored twice and added an assist. “You get a little shiver in your stomach, but I think we battled hard and we came away with the win, so we’re excited.”
“Oh yeah, yeah,” Schmidt said with a smile. “We’ve been in a lot of tight games this year and it always gets stressful right at the last couple of minutes, but I trust our team.”
Undoubtedly aided by the teams’ previous matchup — an 11-6 Culver win in EA’s season opener in March — the Churchmen were ready for the Eagles’ explosive Canadian-style offense full of picks and slips. Churchmen defensive coordinator Will Gibbs reached into his never-ending bag of tricks, and EA kept the Eagles off the board until Reid’s first tally with 53 seconds to go in the first quarter with Delaney replying 24 seconds later with an absolute laser from long distance. That, plus 14 saves and a few intercepted passes from goalie Jake Floyd-Jones, kept the Eagles off balance.
“I think they played good defense and they have a solid goaltender,” Reid added. “We took some shots that we should have made early and their goalie got into a rhythm, but credit to them: they played unreal.”
Eventually, though, constant long possessions wore EA down and Culver supplied just enough offense before the “Emrick Show” kicked off. Longtime offensive standout Jake Martellucci injured his knee in Wednesday’s quarterfinal win over Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, so the Churchmen were looking for a spark against the Eagles.
“We had trouble moving around the perimeter when they pressed out on us,” Emrick offered. “We had trouble in the first half against Malvern and we adjusted and came back against them. The same thing happened (Friday). We adjusted and started scoring goals, but it was just too late.”
The Churchmen finished 11-5 under first-year head coach Chris Bates’ leadership, and a big reason why was Delaney’s play. In theory, his lacrosse career is over as he heads to Johns Hopkins to play basketball. With the senior campaign that he had, though, it’d be surprising if Delaney didn’t at least field some interest from Blue Jays lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala before next spring.
“I expected myself to play close (defense) all year, so that was a big change,” Delaney said. “I couldn’t have imagined the season I had. It’s not just the goals and assists, but it’s being able to guard some of the best midfielders and attackmen in the country and being able to lock them down. Our entire defense had a great year.
“I couldn’t ask for a better senior year. Coach Bates is a great guy and he’s going to do wonderful things for this program.”
Culver Academy 6, Episcopal Academy 5
Culver 1 3 2 0 – 6
Jackson Reid 2g, 1a
Austin Madronic 2g
Jake Stevens 1g, 1a
Alex Simmons 1g
Cam Chauvette 1a
Matt Schmidt 8 saves
Episcopal Academy 1 0 0 4 – 5
Nate Emrick 4g
Conner Delaney 1g
CJ McAnally 1a
Gabe Furey 1a
Cole Johnson 1a
Jake Floyd-Jones 14 saves
Tags: Episcopal Academy