TREDYFFRIN – Veteran head coach Frank Urso has seen a lot of lacrosse matches in his day, but after his Garnet Valley squad staged a shocking comeback to edge Conestoga 12-11 in overtime, he admitted that Thursday’s finish at Teamer Field was truly special.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had one exactly like that,” Urso said. “We’ve had some really good ones, but that was an amazing comeback. That was a character win for us.”
In the battle of perennial Central League powers, the host Pioneers held the high-octane Jaguars without a goal for more than 27 minutes of action, and were comfortably ahead 9-5 heading into the final period. But Garnet Valley fought back with a huge finish sparked by senior attacker Jake D’Annunzio, and then won it in OT when senior midfielder Jacob Buttermore ended it with just less than two minutes on the clock.
“It was amazing,” Buttermore said of the finish. “That is definitely a memory I will never forget for the rest of my life. This was our biggest game the season and our whole team can together in order to pull this one out.”
At 7-1, the Jags (7-3 overall) pull even with Conestoga (11-2 overall) atop the Central League standings with three regular season games to play. The loss on Senior Night halted the Pioneers four-game winning streak.
“The Central League may be the toughest lacrosse public league in the country, so to go unscathed through that is tough,” said Conestoga head coach Brody Bush. “I knew this was going to come down to the wire and that a roll here or there could be the difference in a win or a loss.”
D’Annunzio scored three of his team-high five goals in the fourth as Garnet Valley outscored ’Stoga 7-2 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. A D’Annunzio goal in the first minute of the quarter ended a 27-minute, 30-second scoring drought, and then a few minutes later senior star Matt Moore scored on a laser that cut the margin to 9-6 and seemed to reenergize the Jags.
“We knew we had to bring intensity, and once we got one (goal) the momentum was on our side. We just put our heads down and kept going,” Buttermore said.
“Even when we were down, I really don’t think any of us felt we were out of it,” Urso added. “We thought we’d make a run, whether or not it was ultimately going to fall short. But once you get the momentum, people start making mistakes on the other side and our kids started to make some great things happen.”
The Pioneers were still in control, but individual goals by Buttermore, Denny Nealon and Evan Trizonis in a three-minute span sliced the deficit to one with just over three minutes on the clock. Despite the collapse, ’Stoga recovered briefly with a Drew Mullen goal to take a two-goal lead with 2:33 left in regulation.
But it wasn’t enough. D’Annunzio pulled Garnet Valley back to within one 19 seconds later and then scored the equalizer with just 15 seconds remaining off a nice feed from Moore.
“We knew we still had a shot and we felt like we were getting a little momentum heading in to the fourth. We put it on our seniors, who were playing on this field for the last time, and they went out there and did it,” Urso said.
“I think our youth on defense hurt us a little bit,” Bush added. “We were guarding two very good seniors in Moore and Buttermore, and we had two freshmen playing a majority of the defense.”
Very early in the extra session, D’Annunzio almost ended it with a blast that hit the post. But Conestoga’s ensuing possession ended with a critical save by the Jag’s Jason Rose, setting the stage for Buttermore’s game-winner.
“We came in knowing it was going to be a huge fight and probably a one-goal game either way,” Urso said.
“(Garnet Valley has) the type of players where you really have to be ready to play four quarters and I think we played two and a half,” Bush said.
Even though the Pioneers scored a pair of goals in the opening 79 seconds of play, the Jaguars battled right back. And by the end of the first period, the action was as close as the score, 4-4.
But things changed drastically in the middle quarters as ’Stoga monopolized possession and outscored the Jags 5-0. Tommy Sopko notched his second and third goals of the evening during the rally, teammates Nick Braendel and Drew Mullen added individual goals, with both coming off converted loose balls, for Conestoga. And then Henry Burg capped it off with the lone goal of the third period.
Overall, the Pioneers had a 14-10 edge in face offs and got three goals each from Sopko, Berg and Mullen.
“The boys fought hard but we had a few turnovers at bad times,” Bush acknowledged. “It will be tough going forward because we have Malvern Prep on Saturday. We will have to find a way to forget about this one.”
Bound for Syracuse in the fall, Buttermore finished with big three goals and hit the cross bar with about four minutes left in regulation. The game-winner, however, may have been the most impactful of his high school career.
“This win was huge and hopefully it will extend into a playoff run,” he said.
Garnet Valley 12, Conestoga 11 (OT)
Garnet Valley 4 0 0 7 1– 12
Conestoga 4 4 1 2 – 11
Garnet Valley goals: D’Annunzio 5, Buttermore 3, Trizonis, Nealon 2, Moore.
Conestoga goals: Mullen 3, Berg 3, Sopko 3, Braendel, Reilly.
Goalie saves: Rose (GV) 10; MacMillian (C) 10.