HIGH SCHOOL LACROSSE: IHS falls short in title game
PITTSBURGH — After trading blows with third-seeded Indiana for 3 1/2 quarters, top-seeded Quaker Valley proved why it gave its previous 17 opponents fits with its fast-paced offensive style.
The unbeaten Quakers scored four unanswered goals in a span of 1:20 and pulled away late in a back-and-forth battle to outlast Indiana, 13-10, in the WPIAL Division 2 boys’ lacrosse championship game Friday at Highmark Stadium.
Indiana (12-5) punched its ticket to the championship game by upsetting second-seeded and previously undefeated Moon, 9-8, in overtime in the semifinals on Monday. Indiana launched its program in 2009 under former coach Eric Wetzel.
Because the PIAA doesn’t hold a state tournament for Division 2 teams, Quaker Valley (18-0) also concluded its season.
“The loss is tough for the seniors, but we said to the guys, ‘You didn’t play so poorly as to hang your heads,’” said first-year Indiana coach Allen Affolter. “They played excellent, and we told every player, ‘You keep your head up.’ They were in a dogfight and they played extremely well. These guys have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Quakers narrowly held off the resilient Indians in a game that featured four lead changes and seven ties.
But with the game tied for the last time at 8-8, Quaker Valley mounted a four-goal flurry that ended with 6:15 left in the fourth quarter and essentially crippled Indiana.
Jared Vescio began to turn the tide when he netted a goal from the left wing with 7:35 left in the game to give Quaker Valley a 9-8 lead.
Vescio scored his third goal of the day 30 seconds later on a bounce shot from eight yards to extend the Quakers’ lead to 10-8.
Just 10 seconds later, Tyler Smith shook an Indiana defender with a spin before beating Indiana goalie Max Kittelmann at the edge of the goal crease to make the score 11-8.
Quaker Valley sharpshooter Jake Trovato then skipped a looping shot past Kittelmann to stretch his team’s lead to 12-8 with 6:15 left in the game.
The Quakers won 11 of 15 faceoffs, including 7 of 9 in the second half.
“We talked a lot about the faceoffs and controlling the faceoffs, and Jake Trovato did a wonderful job there,” said Quaker Valley coach Bill Marcotte. “And also we just used some good old-fashioned momentum. We kind of get rolling, and once our kids get rolling, they’re hard to stop. They feed off themselves.
“You love to have a bunch of kids like that who just get hyped up and finish, and that’s what we did.”
The Indians cut their deficit to three twice in the last six minutes of the game. Ryan Watters scored first with 6:00 left to make it a 12-9 game, and Dylan Stapleton netted a goal with 1:39 remaining to make the score 13-10.
Goalie Sadja Elliott thwarted Indiana’s comeback efforts and made two saves in the last 1:15 of the game to solidify the win for Quaker Valley.
Even trailing by three goals in the waning seconds of the game, Indiana’s John Louis Gatti drove hard to the net and unleashed a shot toward Elliott before absorbing body checks from a pair of Quaker Valley defenders.
“We were down by three goals, but we knew it was our last game and we decided to put it all out on the field,” said Indiana senior Keldon Spicher. “We weren’t going to make all those winter practices and indoor practices for nothing. We wanted it all.”
David Zimmerman put Indiana on the board first when he took a Michael Supinka feed and beat Elliott 4:13 into the game.
The Indians’ early goal apparently triggered an awakening in the Quakers, and they responded and netted three unanswered goals, the third of which Jimmy Perkins scored 1:26 into the second quarter to make it a 3-1 game.
But roughly a minute after a Watters’ shot hit the post, Spicher intercepted a Quaker Valley pass and scored on a bounce shot from five yards with defenseman Otto Schaefer in his face to cut the Quakers’ lead to 3-2.
Stapleton then circled the net and fed Watters, who bounced a shot off the post and past Elliott to tie the game at 3 just 2:34 later.
Gatti gave the Indians their second lead just 49 seconds later when he sprinted half the length of the field before bouncing a shot from eight yards past Elliott to make the score 4-3.
Trovato promptly answered Gatti’s goal by slinging a low shot past Kittelmann just 1:21 later to tie the game at 4.
Indiana moved the ball fluidly on its ensuing possession until Supinka, who caught a pass from Zimmerman, found an open lane and fired a low shot that beat Elliott. Supinka’s shot flew low to the ground and bounced off the post at Elliott’s left before rolling into the net to give Indiana the last goal of the first half and a 5-4 lead.
“We didn’t adjust to their style in the first quarter,” Spicher said. “But we did adjust in the second quarter, and that slowed things down on their end. We made them hold longer possessions and we forced them out of their usual fast-paced style. We came back and we were winning at halftime because they weren’t used to that.
“Our job was to try to make them change their game plan, and I think we did a great job of that.”
Smith set the tone in the second half and scored back-to-back fast-break goals in a 26-second span, the second of which gave the Quakers a 6-5 lead with 9:29 to play in the third quarter.
Watters bounced a shot from five yards off of Elliott and into the net to tie the game at 6 just 27 seconds later.
Quaker Valley’s Mike Clark then capitalized on an Indiana turnover and scored on a 3-on-2 break from five yards to make the score 7-6 with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
Supinka scored a goal and tied the game at 7 with 2:42 left in the third, only to watch Perkins score just 12 seconds later to make it an 8-7 game.
Set up by a nifty feed from Supinka, Zimmerman tied the game for the last time and made it 8-8 with a goal from the left wing with 11:26 left in the fourth.
Kittelmann made 19 saves, including 14 in the second half.
A junior and first-year starter, Kittelmann expressed disappointment regarding the loss, but he said he expects to lead the Indians back to the Division 2 title game next year.
“This game was big for us, but we do plan on coming back next year and getting the gold medal next time,” Kittelmann said.
Still emotional following the loss, defenseman Garrett Sharp, one of the team’s two senior starters, admitted that Quaker Valley had the most potent offense of any team the Indians faced this year. Sharp also said he was proud of the effort his fellow defensemen put forth in containing prolific goal scorers like Perkins and Trovato.
“They’ve been killing teams. They were going up by 10 goals, and we knew going into this game that (Perkins), their goal-scorer, was going to be hard to stop,” said Sharp. “Our goal was to just keep him under his usual numbers and keep the game within reach, and as a defense, I think we did that today.”