Two things came to an end Thursday night: St. Mark’s bid for a perfect in-state record in 2012, and Jesuit coach Chris Surran’s career winless streak against coach Hayward Lee’s Lions. One thing that remains alive and well, however, is the potential for a playoff rematch between the North District’s two strongest teams. Thursday’s contest was truly a clash of titans, and the atmosphere left nothing more to be desired, with fans from both sides packing the bleachers of Haggar Stadium full.
The first twelve minutes passed at a staggering pace, both teams running purely on adrenaline. Jesuit goalie Dan Morris kicked off the evening with a nice save, but Lion attackman Andrew Graffy gave his side an early lead with an unassisted goal less than a minute into the game. Just over a minute later, Jesuit’s Carson Buell found the back of the net on an isolation play that freed him for a right-handed shot. St. Mark’s regained a 2-1 lead when Jack Fotosjek fed midfielder Danny Koudelka from X at the 7:53 mark. The Lions had an early extra-man opportunity following a Lee Belland illegal body-check, but the Ranger defense held strong and even generated a scoring chance for the offense before the penalty expired. The Lions extended their lead with just over two minutes remaining in the first with a low-to-low rip from Michigan-bound attackman Will Perkins, courtesy of Peter Addy. Jesuit was flagged again for another illegal body-check in a physical first quarter, but the Ranger man-down defense successfully killed another penalty. The Lions led 3-1 after one, outshooting the home side 10-4.
The second quarter saw only one goal as each team settled down their pace. The Lions switched into a zone defense early, and that, coupled with patient Jesuit ball movement resulted in extended possessions in the Lions’ defensive half. Zach Coker hit a few pipes, but that was as close as the Rangers got early on, as the stifling zone forced many wide shots. The Rangers also flashed some zone defense, with similar success.
Just past the midway point of the quarter, another extended Jesuit possession finally paid dividends when Belland found Mac Maguire for a goal that drew the Rangers to within one. A couple of failed clears prevented the Lions’ offense from finding a rhythm, but goalie Chris Roach continued a strong half between the pipes. He made two late saves to preserve St. Mark’s lead going into the half. Although the game remained a 3-2 Lion lead, it seems that momentum started to shift in that second quarter. Jesuit outshot St. Mark’s 16-1 in that second quarter, and won the ground ball battle 10-3. Still, the vaunted St. Mark’s defense played well as advertised and kept it a low-scoring contest.
If the second quarter was a defensive grind, the third quarter topped it. Neither team managed a goal, though Jesuit continued to control possessions and force turnovers that would again prevent the Lion offense from pressuring the Ranger defense. Jesuit’s best chance of the quarter came on a fast break midway through, but the shot flew wide and Roach made a tremendous hustle play to back the shot up and regain possession for the Lions. Roach made four big saves that quarter, as Jesuit again outshot St. Marks 11-1. After three, the score remained 3-2 Lions heading to the final quarter of the regular season for both teams.
Through three quarters, St. Mark’s had not been flagged for a single penalty. Two early penalties in the fourth, however, sparked a Jesuit rally that consisted of six goals in seven minutes. The Lion defense had done well thus far to limit Jesuit midfielder Garrett Van de Ven’s scoring chances. It turns out the future Blue Devil only needed a little extra space provided by man-up opportunities for his shots to hit home. Van de Ven scored the tying and go-ahead goals on back to back extra-man possessions. Buell provided an assist on the first strike, but the second rip from the top of the box was unassisted. With just under nine minutes to play, Jesuit led for the first time, 4-3. This spark from Van de Ven, and the resurgent energy from the Jesuit student section opened the floodgates for the Ranger offense. Midfielder Sam Rosengarden made his only shot of the night count when he increased the Jesuit lead to 5-3.
The Lions killed a penalty successfully, and desperate for a rally-killing goal, they called a timeout with 4:44 to go. The Jesuit zone facilitated another Morris save, however, and recently-healthy Matt Miller scored an unassisted lefty goal off of an isolation play just inside the box. Jesuit’s Alex Petsos won the following faceoff and called his own number, taking the ball uncontested through the box and beating Roach for a goal. Petsos had another impressive night of face-offs, winning 14 of 15. Twenty seconds after Petsos scored, Zach Coker delivered the knockout blow when he split a double team, stretching the Jesuit lead to 8-3. The Lions’ Graffy managed a late man-up goal with just over two minutes to play, but the deficit had grown too large. Jesuit finished the game outshooting the Lions 39-19, and winning the battle on the ground 38-19.
After the game, Jesuit coach Chris Surran was quick to compliment the Lions’ defense, “Roach played extremely well in the goal, and they played very well as a defensive unit. Tip of the hat to a well-coached team. I think we executed well on our man-up sets, and that was really the key to the game.”
When asked about the fourth quarter, Van de Ven also emphasized the importance of Jesuit’s extra-man execution. “Those two great looks were all thanks to my teammates. They did great to pull their men in, and I was able to finish both shots.”
St. Mark’s coach Hayward Lee was gracious in defeat, “You have to give the Jesuit kids a ton of credit, and they played with a ton of effort all night. They have a lot of weapons, and credit to Coach Surran and his staff for having them ready to play tonight. I think we just made a few too many mistakes tonight, and when you’re playing a top-notch team, your margin for error is very small.”
Jesuit completes their season with a 15-1 record, clinching the top seed in next week’s North District Playoffs. The Lions finish 14-3, with the #2 seed for the North locked in. District playoff match-ups are not yet final; tonight’s Plano/Plano West showdown will determine final seeding.
Texas Heat Lacrosse North District Representative. Texas Heat Lacrosse is a local online news organization and Texas’ growing source for all things lacrosse throughout the state.