SPRINGFIELD >> Even under his lacrosse helmet, it’s hard to imagine the smile left Mike Tulskie’s face very often Saturday afternoon.
The four goals and an assist helped, certainly, though with the junior now up to 53 markers on the season, that output wasn’t all that momentous.
But games like Saturday’s 14-6 win over Harriton in the District 1 Class 2A quarterfinals are what Tulskie hoped for when he returned to Springfield High School after spending his first two years at Cardinal O’Hara.
“I just love being here,” a beaming Tulskie said. “These are the times where the decision seems really clear to you. When you get to play here on this stage, with these guys, it’s a really great feeling.”
Tulskie blazed an auspicious personal path at O’Hara, scoring 116 goals over his first two varsity seasons. But O’Hara is mired in middle-of-the-road purgatory in a Catholic League perpetually ruled by La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep, which always put the prospect of lengthy spells of postseason lacrosse out of the scope of likelihood.
Tulskie was happy to see his former youth club teammates go on their run to the state title last year, toppling La Salle in the final, and now he’s moved back into the public school realm with the hope of contributing to the next championship iteration.
“I was really happy for those guys,” Tulskie said of last year’s Cougars. “They were doing well. And I was doing my thing, playing with my brother at O’Hara.”
The base of familiarity that Tulskie acquired with his former youth teammates made the integration to the team this spring seamless, and it has the top-seeded Cougars (16-3) one win from a return to states, due to face the winner of Radnor and Bishop Shanahan in the semifinals next Tuesday.
Tulskie and Kyle Long have formed a fruitful partnership, and both attained milestones Saturday. Along with Tulskie’s 50th goal of the season, Long surpassed the 100-point mark for the campaign with a goal and five helpers, upping his assist total to 82.
“It’s fantastic,” Tulskie said. “It fit right in perfectly, no real grace period. (Long was) coming back from basketball, first game we were back in already.”
“You always have to know to be cutting off the ball,” said Liam DiFonzo of playing with Long. “You have to know that he will find you, even in those tight spots.”
Springfield jumped on Harriton, which it had beaten 11-2 just two weeks ago, quickly Saturday, leading 5-0 after one quarter and 10-1 at half. DiFonzo tallied three times. Long set up three goals in the first half, including a marker by defenseman Pat Clemens, and capped the first-half scoring by calling his own number on a sneak from behind the cage with 10 seconds left.
The Cougars controlled the pace in the third quarter, thought Harriton surged in the fourth with four straight goals. Will Stahl and Michael Stewart scored twice, Stewart adding a helper, while Ben Schall dished two helpers to go with a marker.
“Finishing strong was awesome because we know that we can look into the future,” Stewart said. “We know we can beat Central League (teams) next year, and ending strong is good for our team and a positive attitude on the way out.”