WEST CHESTER – A potential winner-take-all scenario at the top of the Ches-Mont boys’ lacrosse standings just got a little more complicated.
Thanks to a 7-5 triumph on Tuesday, West Chester Henderson wiggled its way into the championship mix, turning a two-team race into a three-way contest by handing Downingtown East its first league setback. Junior Joe Saulino was the offensive standout for the host Warriors, but the brightest star was junior goaltender Kyle Dampman, who made four critical saves in the closing minutes.
“Our goalie was super,” said Henderson head coach Paul Stankiewicz. “(Dampman) had some amazing saves. That was fun to watch.”
With three regular season contests to go, Avon Grove is still in the Ches-Mont driver’s seat at 8-0. But the Warriors have now pulled into a second place tie with the Cougars at 7-1. The Red Devils play host to Downingtown East on Thursday.
“If everything falls our way, we still have a chance for the title,” said Saulino, who scored four times, including what wound up being the game-winner.
“We still have three more games against Great Valley, Downingtown West and (West Chester) Rustin, and I am not taking anything for granted,” Stankiewicz warned.
One of District 1’s top defensive teams, Henderson (12-2 overall) blanked the explosive Cougars (11-4 overall) in the first half, and led 5-2 with five minutes left in regulation. East roared back down the stretch with a pair of goals by Bryce Lauletta and Brian Miller in a seven-second span, and then sliced the margin to one, 6-5, when Miller scored again off a pass from teammate Jack Mulcahy with 2:10 to go.
“Downingtown East gave us a little scare at the end because they are good too,” Stankiewicz said.
“Our kids had a sense of urgency towards the end, which is something they didn’t have in the first three quarters,” added East head coach Todd Cliggett.
The closing minutes, however, belonged to Dampman. He made two big saves just prior to Miller’s last goal, and then added two more in the final two minutes, including the stop of a Lauletta blast. The Warriors finally got possession and Dylan Teeter notched an insurance goal with 12 seconds remaining.
“I was ready to play. I was in game-mode,” said Dampman.
“We knew this game was going to be tough so we came in ready to play. We had a week off, we scouted them well, we knew what we wanted to do, and we did it.”
Saulino scored two goals in the first period and Brandon Moyer made it 3-0 at the half.
“To do what we did in the first half, your goalie has to be hot, they have to drop the ball and make some mistakes, and you have to hold the ball some,” Stankiewicz explained.
“(Henderson) plays good position defense and we couldn’t necessarily get to the cage against them, but we did have some quality shots and their goalie just came up really big,” Cliggett added. “He is pretty good.”
Mulcahy ended a 28-minute-plus scoring drought for the Cougars with a third period tally, but Henderson bounced back with goals by Teeter and Saulino. Lauletta and Saulino each added unassisted goals early in the fourth to set the stage for the finish.
“We made it a game, but if we play that hard in the first quarter, who knows what happens,” Cliggett said. “It would have been a different outcome for sure.
“But against a talented team like Henderson or Avon Grove, it’s hard to come back.”
The Warriors have now won 12 in a row since falling to Avon Grove on March 30th. But that doesn’t mean that Henderson loved everything about Tuesday’s win.
“We played great in the first half, but it can’t stop there,” Saulino said. “If you stop playing – like we sort of did towards the end – you are going to pay for it, and we did.
“But all year our defense has been fantastic.”
West Chester Henderson 7, Downingtown East 5
Downingtown East 0 0 1 4 – 5
W.C. Henderson 2 1 1 3 — 7
Downingtown East goals: Lauletta 2, Miller 2, Mulcahy.
W.C. Henderson goals: Saulino 4, Teeter 2, Moyer.
Goalie saves: Iacovino (DE) 4; Dampman (WCH) 10.