TOWAMENCIN >> Lacrosse is supposed to be fun but for the entirety of the first half Saturday, North Penn wasn’t having any.
The Knights couldn’t seem to get anything to go their way while Great Valley was enjoying plenty of advantageous bounces. As a result, North Penn was down six at the half and staring at the possibility of a long afternoon.
Once the second half started however, North Penn started to have a lot of fun. Not only did the Knights rally all the way back, they finished it off and claimed a 10-9 win.
“At halftime we just regrouped,” North Penn coach Rick Smith said. “The first half, nothing was going right for us. The message, I said to the guys the sport is meant to be fun so let’s just go back out and have fun.”
The difference maker for North Penn was Tanner Nelson. Nelson, a senior midfielder, had the Knights’ lone goal in the first half but he was dominant in the second half without recording a point.
Nelson collected eight ground balls and was dominant on the faceoff X, not losing a single duel after halftime. Because North Penn kept winning faceoffs, it kept getting the ball back and because it kept getting the ball back, it kept scoring.
“It was night and day from the first half to the second half,” Smith said. “Our guys came out to play in the second half. Great Valley is a very, very good team and it was a well-fought game by both teams.”
North Penn needed every bit of Nelson’s play and all of the poise its attack showed in the second half thanks to the way the Patriots started the game. Aaron Joseph had a first quarter hat-trick and Dylan Tashitan scored two of his three goals in the first half as Great Valley took a 7-1 lead to the break.
GV coach Ben Walton admitted his team was getting a ton of bounces its way in the first half but his guys had come out and pressed the issue from the first faceoff. Not being able to keep it together in the second half is what cost the team.
“I think we were a little bit comfortable with the lead that we had,” Walton said. “Things start falling apart and one of the things we’ve been talking about is mental toughness and when they started chipping away at our lead, our guys got a little conservative and afraid to make mistakes and we started to slowly collapse from there.”
Eric Diamond scored two minutes into the third quarter to open up a North Penn deluge. Stephen Rinck, Reece Udinski and Nick Conroy followed suit over the next five minutes as the Knights got within a single goal of the visitors while shutting Great Valley out. Udinski assisted Diamond 46 seconds into the final frame to tie the game and the snowball was now firmly on its way down the hill.
Udinski, the three-sport standout senior, assisted Payne on the go-ahead goal and Nick Keim capped the rally off a beautiful behind-the-back assist from Max Lehrman with 7:50 left.
The Patriots got two quick goals by Joseph and Tashitan to tie the game up at 9-9 with 5:12 to go, but it felt like GV was trying to fight the incoming tide at that point.
“We started to fall apart before that and we kind of went into a tailspin,” Walton said. “We weren’t really jiving as a team at point. It was too little, too late. We had let them back in and couldn’t pull it together emotionally.”
North Penn, led by Nelson, won 15-of-23 faceoffs and were much more aggressive getting to ground balls in the second half. Goalie Matt Rinck made 18 saves, including a couple of clutch stops in the fourth quarter to keep momentum on North Penn’s side.
Lehrman scored the game-winner off a Keim assist with 4:20 left in the game. North Penn faces Pennridge in its first game of next week and Smith said Saturday’s effort doesn’t mean anything unless the Knights can keep it going.
Smith said his attackmen won the game for the Knights.
“Our whole offense in the second half made a big difference for us,” Smith said. “They allowed us to have good possessions in the second half and won us the game there.”
North Penn 10, Great Valley 9
Great Valley 4 3 0 2 — 9
North Penn 1 0 5 4 — 10
Goals-Assists: GV – Aaron Joseph 4-0, Dylan Tashitan 3-0, Sean German 1-0, Dawson Hicditch 1-0, Owen Banavitch 0-1; NP – Eric Diamond 2-0, Danny Payne 2-0, Tanner Nelson 1-0, Reece Udinski 1-2, Stephen Rinck 1-1, Nick Conroy 1-1, Max Lehrman 1-1, Nick Keim 1-1.
Top Photo: North Penn celebrates its win over Great Valley on Saturday, April 15, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)