HIGH SCHOOL LACROSSE: Indians win first-ever playoff game
It didn’t seem essential at the moment, but Keldon Spicher’s insurance goal early in the fourth quarter proved the difference in the Indiana boys’ lacrosse team’s quest for its first playoff win Thursday.
In the midst of steady rain, Spicher scored 2:33 into the fourth quarter to pad Indiana’s lead to three goals. The Indians followed with a few key defensive stands down the stretch to withstand a late rush from Vincentian Academy and seal an 8-7 win in a WPIAL Division 2 quarterfinal-round playoff game at Andy Kuzneski Field.
[PHOTO: Indiana's Keldon Spicher scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal on Thursday night. (Teri Enciso/Gazette)]
The Indians (10-4), the Section 1 champions, will play Monday against the winner of the quarterfinal-round game between Moon and Greensburg Central Catholic in the semifinals at a site to be determined.
Vincentian (10-5) finished third in Division 2 Section 3.
The Royals qualified for the playoffs by winning their last game of the season, an 11-9 victory over Aquinas Academy on May 7.
“At the time we were all pumped and we thought we had it in hand,” said Spicher of his game-winning goal. “But then they kept fighting and they started coming back. They wouldn’t give up, but thank goodness I got that goal and that was enough to give us the win.”
Spicher scored the eventual game-winning goal when he caught David Zimmerman’s pass and fired a low liner past Vincentian goalie Jacob Winkler to put Indiana in front 8-5 with 9:27 to go in the fourth quarter.
Kyle Heery cut Indiana’s lead to 8-6 by beating Indiana goalie Max Kittelmann from 12 yards with 3:25 left in the game.
A little more than two minutes later, John Succop capitalized on an Indiana turnover and scored from 10 yards to make it an 8-7 game with 1:13 to play.
Then, after Indiana’s Luke Lewandowski got flagged for a penalty with 48 seconds to play, the Royals swiftly moved the ball around the Indians’ net in hopes of finding a lane or an open shot.
Vincentian’s Chris Chiappa saw an opening and unleashed a low shot from five yards that Kittelmann blocked with his foot with 27 seconds to go.
Indiana defender Garrett Sharp scooped up the ensuing ground ball and sent a clearing pass to a teammate near midfield.
Succop then picked up a ground ball with 12 seconds left in the game and sprinted toward Kittelmann. Aware of how much time was left, Succop heaved a desperation shot from 20 yards toward the net, only to watch his shot sail over Kittelmann’s head as the final buzzer sounded.
“I really liked our chances there,” said Vincentian coach Andy Bensics. “I thought we were going to score a goal, and then I thought we’d be a man up for over a minute at the start of overtime. I think if it would have been drier it might have been different, but that’s probably just an excuse.”
First-year Indiana coach Allen Affolter agreed that the inclement weather played a major role in the game’s outcome, but he said both teams dealt with the challenges posed by the heavy rain that began early in the first half.
“The weather was just horrible with that driving rain, and it definitely affected things on both sides, especially late in the game,” Affolter said. “The goalies struggled with visibility, and it really affected the way they handled their sticks. Once it gets so wet it’s just very tough to execute.”
Although the Royals didn’t lead at any point in the first half, they answered each of the Indians’ three first-half goals to make the first 24 minutes of the game more tightly contested than expected.
Vincentian’s Alexander Mueser countered Ryan Watters’ first-quarter goal by slinging a shot over Kittelmann’s right shoulder to tie the game at 1 just 14 seconds into the second quarter.
Dylan Stapleton scored 59 seconds later from five yards to give Indiana a 2-1 lead with 10:47 left in the second.
But Steve Succop ensured that Indiana’s lead didn’t stick and scored just 2:54 later to tie the game at 2 with 7:53 left in the first half.
Zimmerman scored Indiana’s final goal of the first half when he took a feed from John Louis Gatti and scored on a bounce shot to make it 3-2 with 4:12 left in the second.
Mueser responded with a nifty bounce shot of his own, skipping a shot from 10 yards past Kittelmann with 1:31 left in the second to tie the game at 3-3.
“We had our share of opportunities, but I think we were hesitant to pull the trigger a lot of times,” Affolter said. “We had shots, but the nerves were there, and people didn’t want to make mistakes. But we resolved that at halftime and the guys came out ready and knowing that they had full liberty to shoot when they had the chance.”
Michael Supinka put Indiana on the board first in the second half, scoring from 10 yards on an assist from Spicher to give Indiana a 4-3 lead 6:52 into the third quarter. Spicher scored an unassisted goal from eight yards 1:06 later to make it 5-3 with 4:02 left in the third.
John Succop netted a goal with 1:03 left in the third to make it 5-4.
Stapleton then scored with two seconds left in the quarter to give Indiana a 6-4 lead.
The teams exchanged goals early in the fourth quarter. Mueser scored just 55 seconds in to make it 6-5 before Zimmerman scored 27 seconds later to make it 7-5.
Spicher netted the eventual game-winning goal 1:11 later to make it 8-5.
“They lost to a few teams that we beat, but they sure came here to play, and they showed it. We just played a little better and got that one extra goal,” Spicher said.
Affolter took over this year for Eric Wetzel, who formed the program in 2009. Affolter said he’s honored to lead the Indians to their second significant goal of the season, but admitted that he’s not surprised with their feats.
“It’s really special, but in another sense it’s not surprising because of the skill level of the players,” Affolter said. “I inherited a tremendous team from Coach Wetzel, and I knew these guys were very capable of doing what they’ve done.”
Indiana collected 39 ground balls to Vincentian’s 17.
Spicher won 10 of 12 faceoffs, including six of seven in the second half.
Spicher and Sharp had seven ground balls apiece. Kittelmann made five saves.