By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/11/17
The roots of Springfield-Delco’s road to Saturday’s PIAA Class AA state championship game didn’t start to take shape until the Cougars had a few early-season ugly bumps.
MIAA power Boys’ Latin and Central League power Conestoga blew Springfield out, marring the Cougars’ early slate. It was eerily similar to 2016, when the Cougars started 2-5 before winning their first PIAA championship. The losses had a lasting effect on Springfield in the best way possible.
“We had a team meeting and said that, ‘last year was nothing and we had to start all over,’” defenseman Nick Matty said. “I didn’t think we were going to have a shot at playoffs at that point. We did what we had to do.”
That all came to fruition Saturday at West Chester East when Springfield (22-3) withstood a late West Chester Henderson charge to seal up a 9-8 win that gave their second straight PIAA crown.
But it was not easy against a pesky Henderson (20-4) squad.
After Jack Spence rifled home what held up as the game-winner with 4:42 to play, the Warriors came to life. Joe Saulino dropped a highlight-reel gem of a goal on the Cougars, then Brandon Moyer set up Matt Turse’s fourth snipe of the game to bring Henderson to within one with 2:45 to go.
Luke Wierman won the last of his 15 faceoff triumphs to set up Henderson’s last chance, until the Warriors ran into a guy who’s foiled a scoring threat or two in his day.
Two-time All-American goalie James Spence (eight saves) made a terrific save on Moyer, but Henderson got another crack at it and missed the net. Out of the timeout, pressure from Matty caused a ground ball, and the Warriors’ last pass to set up a good look sailed high to give the Cougars their second consecutive state title.
“We were trying to get something in close, because (Spence) is really, really good,” Henderson midfielder Nick Mascetti said. “He eats up just about everything from outside of 10 yards. We were trying to jam the crease and get one last look, but they put the clamps down.”
“It feels great,” said attackman and passing wizard Kyle Long, who set up four Springfield-Delco’s goals. “Throughout the whole season, everyone’s coming for us. I think it’s a little bit better than last year because every year, somebody has to win it, but not everybody gets to go back-to-back.”
As he has all year, Long elevated the play of those around him, and against the Warriors, Joey DeBernardi was the one who shined brightest. The junior went off for four goals, the most impressive his last one that put Springfield up 8-5.
He slithered through a maze of defenders, popping open for a split second. Long effortlessly weaved a pass through that cluster of sticks and body parts, DeBernardi caught it and immediately let it fly while taking a big hit. The end result was a top-shelf rocket and a perfect way to punctuate DeBernardi’s big day.
“I just try to come out and do my thing,” DeBernardi modestly said. “You get into a groove. Kyle finds me every time and I trust him. I know he’s going to give a good pass right at my ear, and just turn and shoot and hope it goes in.
“It definitely helps to have been here before. Obviously, a very good team, but you’ve just got to buy into your system and trust your teammates and know that coming in, they’re going to have my back no matter what.”
That trust helped erase the memory of an ugly start for the second straight year.
For the second championship game at East in less than a month, Henderson was great, but couldn’t quite solve Pennsylvania lacrosse’s newest dynasty. Turse finished with four goals, while Archer Rymiszewski, Brandon Moyer, Joe Saulino and Mascetti all added a goal and an assist. Luke Wierman was outstanding at the faceoff X, collecting 15 of 21 wins.
Despite that, there was a familiar scene with Springfield players posing for pictures with their newest piece of hardware.
So much for those two losses.
West Chester Henderson 0 2 3 3 – 8
Matt Turse 4g
Archer Rymiszewski 1g, 1a
Brandon Moyer 1g, 1a
Joe Saulino 1g, 1a
Nick Mascetti 1g, 1a
Luke Wierman 15-for-21 faceoffs
Kyle Dampman 5 saves
Springfield-Delco 0 4 4 1 – 9
Joey DeBernardi 4g
Jack Spence 2g
Mike Tulskie 2g
Ben Garcia 1g, 1a
Kyle Long 4a
James Spence 8 saves