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Garnet Valley ‘X-man’ Lopez nets 1st career goal

RADNOR >> Rei Lopez has gone through the routine hundreds of times in his high school career.

The Garnet Valley senior contests a faceoff, winning more often than not. Then it’s 50-50 whether he’s turned back by the defense or is allowed to build a head of steam going forward.

Ninety-nine out of 100 occurrences of the latter case, Lopez follows the script of drawing a defender, dumping to a more specialized attacking threat and retreating to battle another day.

Saturday was that one time, and Lopez didn’t look like a player unaccustomed to shooting.

Lopez buried his first career varsity goal and accumulated a 19-for-22 day at the X to power Garnet Valley’s 12-8 nonleague win over Spring-Ford at the 17th annual Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival at Radnor High School.

If Lopez played the last three quarters and change with a bit of extra wind in his sails, it stemmed from the sortie at 8 minutes, 16 seconds of the first. Just nine seconds after a clean draw win set off a tic-tac-toe goal for Jake Morin from Jacob Buttermore, Lopez was at it again. This time, he called his own number and rifled a deft shot high on Spring-Ford goalie Kyle Pettine.

Lopez explained the mentality of those rare offensive chances for FOGOs (the acronym for Face Off, Get Off), players normally tasked with taking face-offs and then getting off the field as soon as possible.

“FOGOs, you see a lot of guys run down there as fast as they can and shoot it like, ‘Oh I’m going to shoot this as hard as I can,’ and don’t really aim for it,” Lopez said. “But I felt that shot that I took, I was calm and I knew I was going to put it in the top corner.”

Lopez’s deferential first instinct has merit. His offensive toolkit isn’t the most expansive for a faceoff specialist. But the Jaguars don’t require him to contribute regularly, focusing his energies on the X.

With a passel of stars like the Syracuse-bound Buttermore or three-time All-Delco Matt Moore (University of Virginia) waiting in the attacking half, Lopez is rarely the best option to go to goal. But that only heightened the special nature of Saturday’s marker.

“It’s a milestone,” Lopez said. “The role of the FOGO is to get possession, but there’s more than just the FOGO. If you get it on the fast break, there’s a potential to score. And I guess with all the players that we have, I know they can score. But to have the confidence to shoot it and nail one in the top right, it feels pretty good.”

Lopez’s wins translated to team success in a spastically paced game. The first quarter featured seven goals in 4 minutes, 6 seconds, leaving the teams even at 4-4. GV’s tallies blossomed in pairs — Morin and Lopez within nine seconds, then Jake D’Annunzio for the first two of his five-spot eight seconds apart.

Sloppiness marred the second quarter, grinding the breakneck pace to a standstill. But Evan Trizonis and Buttermore scored 17 seconds apart in the final 100 ticks, staking the Jags (10-3) to a 7-4 lead at the break. And just when Spring-Ford (12-2) threatened to pilfer the momentum at 8-7 in the final minute of the third thanks to a natural hat trick from Tate Pijanowski, D’Annunzio answered back with one tick left on the clock by deflecting home a Buttermore feed … off a clean Lopez win.

“You’ve got to be grateful for Rei,” Trizonis said. “Today was huge for him, and it’s great when he can win them.”

Trizonis scored three times — including the backbreaker at 4:48 of the fourth to stretch the lead to 11-8 — and added an assist. Buttermore provided a goal and three helpers. Pijanowski sparked Spring-Ford with his spurt. Daniel Cassidy tallied twice to go with setting up Peyton Gensler’s tally at 1:23 of the first quarter. But from there, the Rams endured a 22-minute barren stretch until Pijanowski’s three-minute hat trick. It was preceded by the Rams killing a two-man disadvantage.

“Our defense was very strong and was playing very good defense,” Pijanowski said. “When someone messes up on the team like that where we get a penalty and the defense is able to stop that and keep another team from taking advantage of that, and then bring the ball into the offensive zone and give us a chance to swing the momentum our way, it’s a big deal. For that third quarter, it was a game-changer.”

Kyle Pettine kept Spring-Ford in the game with 12 saves, though a pair of denials turned into rebound goals on the doorstep. Gensler notched his second goal at 9:31 of the fourth, inching the Rams back to within one.

But with a steady diet of Lopez winning draws any which way, the Rams were denied enough possession to claw any closer, only fitting given Lopez’s memorable day.

“It feels great to finally get one for your hard work of doing many, many thousands of reps in practice,” Lopez said. “Then to finally put it in the net, it feels great. It’s unbelievable.”

Also at the Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival:

Haverford School 14, Hun School 8 >> Johnny Nostrant tallied five goals and two assists, and Luke O’Grady fired home four goals and dished an assist for the Fords.

Peter Garno and Ryan Jacob scored twice each for Haverford (9-5).

Penn Charter 8, Radnor 7 >> Clayton Proctor tallied a hat trick, but the Quakers’ Luke Stansfield grabbed a groundball and tucked away the game-winner to break a tie with 2:15 left in regulation.

Marple Newtown 11, Great Valley 9 >> Marlon Weathers posted a hat trick, and Alex Viola paired two goals with two assists in leading the Tigers to a nice nonleague win.

Jake Long and Alex Funk added two goals and two assists each for the Tigers (11-4).

Archbishop Carroll 15, Upper Merion 8 >> Adam Ritter buried five goals and assisted on two others, and Andy Borkowski finished off four markers to pace the Patriots.

Fynn McNulty (two goals, two assists) and Conor O’Brien (two goals, assist) also helped fuel the Carroll attack.

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