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Defending PIAA champ Springfield break through for first win

ANNE NEBORAK — DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA

SPRINGFIELD >> For a team that won it all last season, Springfield sure took it’s time getting back in the win column.
Losses in the first two games of this season left the defending state lacrosse champions soul searching.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, judging by their 11-3 Central League win over Penncrest, which won the state title three years ago.
“We had a couple of tough losses,” goalie James Spence said Thursday night. “I think our team just wasn’t clicking as well as we know we can and as good as we were practicing. So we got tough on each other at practice. We had a couple of team meetings, we watched a lot of film and I think today our team just played as a unit and played really well.”
Spence stopped seven pretty good shots to frustrate the already stressed Lions, who fell to 0-3. Then there was his deep pass to younger brother Jack, which dazzled the crowd and kick-started a third-quarter run of five straight goals, turning a two-goal lead at the intermission into a 9-2 advantage entering the final frame.
Think of a quarterback stepping up in the pocket and throwing a go-route in football. James Spence fired the ball more than 50 yards downfield to sophomore Jack Spence, who took a step or two before burying the shot for the first of his two goals.
“We know each other,” James Spence said. “We know how we play. We’ve grown up together. It helps. I’ve hit some other kids but he’s definitely the one I’m looking for the most. I can trust him the most. It’s awesome watching your younger brother do well and make a great play like that and keep the momentum going in our favor.”
Jack Spence thought his bro deserved an assist for the goal and that attack Michael Tulski, who had four goals and one assist, warranted a game ball.
More than anything it was a game where the Springfield leaders showed up collectively, starting with the goalie.
“He’s a great mentor,” Jack Spence said of his brother. “He always tells us what to do, how to play defense and someone I’m always looking to him to tell me what I need to do. And I think all of our captains are great leaders, not just him. It’s Matt Reiss and Nick Matty, all of those guys.”
Springfield coach Tom Lemieux applauded, among others, Andrew Pickett. The senior won 15 of 17 faceoffs.
Obviously it’s also a huge help to have your goalie take charge. When James Spence wasn’t stopping shots — some of those saves firing up teammates — he was directing traffic or throwing those deadly go-routes.
“James is one of the best we’ve had,” Lemieux said. “He’s a game-changer. We’re fortunate to have him. He’s one of the best goalies around and we rely on him a lot. And he likes it. And it’s good to get a win.
“I think we finally started putting our shots in the back of the net. That’s the name of the game. We weren’t finishing very well early. Getting the ball up off the ground is a struggle out here. But I thought our kids competed for four quarters, and things started going our way in the third. We took a step in a positive direction today. We still have a long way to go.”
Right now the Lions would seem to have a long, long way to go. Coach Wayne Matsinger appreciated the way his Lions hung together in the first half, The third quarter, however, was anything but the way Penncrest plays lacrosse, as the squad was outshot, 12-1.
“We have a lot of issues,” Matsinger said. “We’re young, undisciplined, unfocused — unfortunately. We always try to learn from every game. The question is, can we apply what we learn? That’s what we’re going to try to do. It’s very early. Tommy (Lemieux) was 1-5 last year and went on to win the state championship. So there’s always something to build on. That was my speech right now.”
In other Central League action:
Strath Haven 14, Marple Newtown 6 >> After a close first quarter, which saw the Panthers jump out to a 1-0 lead, Haven turned it on in the second, with seven goals on its way to a rout. Jeffrey Conner had four goals and four assists in the win. Will Huestis also found the back of the net four times for the Panthers.
On the other side, five Tigers scored with Luke Jelus and Zach Faust each contributing two goals.

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