DOWNINGTOWN – When the West Chester Henderson and Bishop Shanahan lacrosse squads collided on Thursday evening, it was in effect an elimination match.
Both had previously fallen to unbeaten Avon Grove, and Downingtown East is also without a setback, so neither side could afford another loss and still hold out legitimate hopes of challenging for the Ches-Mont regular season crown.
Not surprisingly, it was deadlocked with three minutes remaining in regulation, but that’s when junior midfielder Joe Saulino delivered what ended up the game-winner, propelling the visiting Warriors to a hard-earned 7-6 triumph.
“With Avon Grove and Downingtown East still undefeated, this was very important,” Saulino said. “It keeps us in the race.”
“We are out of the Ches-Mont race, basically,” acknowledged Eagles’ head coach Jon Heisman. “But we may see (Henderson) again in the postseason.”
According to Henderson head coach Paul Stankewicz, it was the Warriors first victory over Shanahan in an awfully long time.
“This is the first time we’ve beaten (Shanahan) in six or seven years,” he said. “They were just better all those years, and they may have been better tonight, but we managed to get just one more goal.”
Now 4-1 in the league (9-2 overall), the Warriors survived to keep pace with the Red Devils (6-0) and the Cougars (5-0). The Eagles fall to 3-2 (6-2 overall).
“Avon Grove and (Downingtown) East still have to play each other and since we already lost to Avon Grove, we hope East beats them,” Stankewicz said. “Then we will have a shot.”
Early on the final period, Shanahan’s Sam Goforth knotted the score at 6-6 with his third goal of the evening. But a minute later, Saulino rifled a left-handed blast past Eagles’ freshman goaltender Keegan Billie, who is filling in for the injured Nic Pezone.
“We were in transition. (Shanahan) had a short-stick (defender) on me, and he leaned one way and I went the other,” Saulino recalled.
“Actually, we would rather have him pass it, then after another couple passes he eventually gets it back for an even better shot, but we will take what we get,” Stankiewicz added.
It wasn’t over, however, until Henderson found a way to kill off the final three minutes. The final two minutes were particularly intense, but Archer Rymiszewski came up with a huge ground ball with just over the minute remaining and then drew an Eagles’ penalty.
“That was a crazy finish,” Heisman said. “It was a scramble and a lot of things just seemed to bounce their way tonight.”
The Warriors seized all of the early momentum by scoring three goals in the opening three and half minutes of action, which forced a Shanahan timeout. The goals came from Rymiszewski, Jack Saulino and Nick Mascetti, and Henderson nearly made it 4-0 but a shot by Mascetti glanced off the far post.
The Eagles finally got on the board late in the first period on a goal by Goforth, but Rymiszewski upped the margin to 4-1 with his second goal.
“We’ve had bad starts, and I don’t know what it is,” Heisman complained. “We are going to have to figure it out. Same thing happened against Avon Grove.”
Undaunted, Shanahan stormed back with four of the next five goals and actually took a brief lead. A goal by Gabe Goforth started it off and then a pair of quick tallies by Michael Tagliaferri and Connor Whalen in a frenzied eight-second span enabled Shanahan to tie it up, 4-4, at the half.
Sam Goforth made it 5-4 early in the second half, but then it was the Warriors’ turn to bounce back on scores from Saulino and Mascetti.
“Henderson took it to us at certain times and they deserved to win,” Heisman said.
“Our defense has been tremendous and it was tonight,” Joe Saulino pointed out. “We played good fundamental lacrosse.
“Shanahan is a very physical team, no doubt about it. Every single ground ball was a bloodbath. It just came down to heart, and when that happens, I like our team’s chances.”
West Chester Henderson 7, Bishop Shanahan 6
W.C. Henderson 3 1 2 1 – 7
B. Shanahan 1 3 1 1 – 6
W.C. Henderson goals: Jo. Saulino, Mascetti 2, Ja. Saulino 2, Rymiszewski 2.
B. Shanahan goals: S. Goforth 3, Tagliaferri, Whalen, G. Goforth.
Goalie saves: Dampman (WCH) 6; Billie (BS) 7.