LANSDALE >> The last few minutes before a game starts are usually pretty routine.
Players finish their warm-ups, the captains and coaches meet and everyone else gets a few last minute tips or things to remember. Monday afternoon, Lansdale Catholic’s boys lacrosse team was just about to finish its warmup for its game against St. Joseph’s Prep.
There was only one problem, the Hawks hadn’t arrived yet as their bus got stuck in traffic.
LC had to keep itself busy for about 20 extra minutes while the Prep arrived, changed and warmed up as quick as it could. It was a big game for the Crusaders and while the players probably wouldn’t admit it, the extra wait likely had an effect on their slow start in an 11-3 setback in the Philadelphia Catholic League matchup.
“Our program has never beat the Prep and I think our guys were a bit anxious before the game,” LC coach Thomas Nace said. “They have the skills, the talent and the ability to come out and put up a game against these guys and I think that had a lot to do with the slow start.”
The Crusaders were done in mostly by a bevy of turnovers, many of them unforced and an inability to break down St. Joe’s Prep’s very strong defense. Yet for all of that, LC was playing even with the Hawks throughout the first quarter and even held a 4-1 advantage in shots at one point.
Still, it felt like the Prep was having a bit better of the play with its long poles forcing quite a few turnovers on the back end. The scoreless tie broke with 25 seconds left when Prep’s Finn Monahan scored, a gut punch to LC and just the spark the Hawks needed.
“It was exactly in our favor and I hate giving up goals at the end of any quarter,” Nace said. “It’s a huge thing we preach at LC. We gave them the late goal in the first and at the start of the second, it got away from us. Playing from behind, because of the importance and how big of a game it was, we really weren’t playing our typical brand of lacrosse.”
A bright spot for LC was the play of faceoff man Nick Heiler, who won 9-of-16 faceoffs against the Prep’s Daniel Fisher. Fisher, a Villanova recruit and one of the top faceoff men around, presented a challenge that Heiler was very much looking forward to.
“I was looking forward to it just to show that LC has some pretty good kids too,” Heiler said. “I counted on my wing players a lot and they stepped up big for me today.”
Unfortunately for Heiler, his team’s attack wasn’t able to make the most of his wins with short possessions and turnovers. The Crusaders gave the ball away 21 times and for every stick check and ground ball the Hawks caused, there was a careless pass by the Crusaders that went out of bounds.
Heiler felt his teammates did well competing for ground balls but quickly noted the unforced errors as something that would need to get corrected quickly. LC has one more game this week, then starts the PCL playoffs where it will likely finish as the No. 3 seed and face a potential rematch with Prep in the second round.
“We came out pretty flat for warming up for a while, which isn’t like us,” Heiler said. “We forced a lot, but their defense is very good so that impacted us as well. Their ride was really good, we had trouble getting over midfield and they kept pressing out on us, which we weren’t used to and it caused a lot of turnovers for us.”
Prep built a 5-0 lead in the second quarter before Ryan Flanegan finally got LC on the board with 1:32 left in the first half. The Crusaders seemed to have a little momentum rolling to start the second half, killing a penalty then getting a second goal from Flanegan a minute into the third quarter.
The momentum didn’t last long, as the Prep scored 30 seconds later, part of a 5-0 run to end the third. Prep scored its final goal two minutes into the final frame before LC’s Michael Basilii found the net off a Grady Kelly assist for the last tally of the day.
Right after the game ended, the LC varsity players stepped onto an adjoining field and spent about 15 minutes just passing, catching and working on the basics. They knew they left a lot on the field Monday and in the midst of a season full of expectations they’ve mostly lived up to, couldn’t let that stand.
“We have to get away from the bad habits to turn them into good habits,” Heiler said. “We need to practice hard and take Friday very seriously. I think we’ll be ready for the playoffs, we just came out flat today.”
The Crusaders have a large roster for being a smaller school but not all the guys are year-round lacrosse players. Nace said he loves having them on the team and they all work hard, but they have to be playing with confidence in games like Monday’s if LC wants to advance through the postseason.
“It’s not for a lack of skill, it was the desire to go out there and play against a higher level of competition,” Nace said. “We have leaned on our first and second line (midfielders), so having that third line would lead to us having more success. They have a lot to learn, after our 11 seniors, the junior and sophomore class need to elevate their game. They know what needs to happen and we’re also building for next year.”
St. Joseph’s Prep 11, Lansdale Catholic 3
St. Joseph’s Prep 1 4 5 1 – 11
Lansdale Catholic 0 1 1 1 – 3
Goals-Assists: LC – Ryan Flanegan 2-0, Michael Basilii 1-0, Grady Kelly 0-2, Nick Heiler 0-1. Saves: LC – Bob Bausman 9.