HAVERFORD >> The scenario lent itself perfectly to a storybook ending to The Haverford School’s season.
The Inter-Ac Invitational championship game on the Fords’ home field, playing against the team that beat them in last year’s title game. Culver Academy and Haverford have played each other for the past three years, and the Eagles entered Sunday’s game with only one blemish on their schedule, a double-overtime loss to the Fords in March.
Sometimes, though, the storybook ending is to someone else’s tale.
The Eagles got four goals and two assists from Austin Madronic and goalie Matt Schmidt was brilliant, making seven of his 13 saves in the final quarter, as Culver avenged its loss, 9-5, to win the tournament for the second consecutive year.
A last-second change of venue from Kelly Field in West Chester to Haverford by tournament organizer Victory Events meant that Haverford had its eye on celebrating in front of its fans on its field. The Eagles, though, had other ideas.
“Everything kind of aligned for us to get to this game,” said midfielder Johnny Nostrant, who scored once and set up Luke O’Grady for another goal. “It’s kind of the perfect scenario: Last game on your own field and we just couldn’t get it done.”
Nostrant’s goal early in the third quarter came 53 seconds after O’Grady had scored on the man-up on an assist from Pearse Glavin to tie the game at four and give the Fords (16-7) new life. It was short-lived. The Eagles’ Cam Chauvette set up two Austin Madronic goals 63 seconds apart midway through the third quarter ,and Jake Stevens added another tally with two seconds left in the frame to knock the Fords down for the count.
They would have still had a chance to come back against Culver (21-1) if not for Schmidt’s play. The senior, who next year will play at Notre Dame less than an hour away from the Eagles’ campus, was simply brilliant.
Joel Trucksess won the fourth quarter’s opening faceoff and set up Scott Deck for a goal 13 seconds into the final frame. That was the last time Haverford solved Schmidt, who stopped shots from all angles and triumphantly tossed the ball into the air as time expired to start the celebration.
“It was a great way to end the year,” Schmidt said. “It’s always a little tense toward the end of the game, especially when you start to see more shots, but it was really nice to get some saves. That helped us win the game, just being able to calm down and relax when time is ticking down. This is what we were gunning for all year. As soon as we had that loss, we said, ‘we’re going to see these guys again in the Inter-Ac championship. That’s the one team we get to play again, so being able to actually come back, play on this field and get a win at their home is phenomenal.”
Haverford definitely felt the effects of Schmidt’s play, too.
“It all started with their goalie. He was doing great,” said O’Grady, who finished his breakout junior campaign with two goals. “Their team is very linked together. They’ve been playing a lot together. They have good chemistry and they’re pretty tough to beat. (Madronic’s goals) were definitely deflating, but we find a way to always get ourselves down and bounce back, so we were hoping we could bounce back.”
After losing a stacked 2016 class to graduation, one that featured Daily Times Player of the Year and Virginia freshman sensation Dox Aitken, the Fords entered the season unsure of how they stacked up. That changed quickly, and despite their loss, they still came away with their third straight Inter-Ac regular-season championship. Unlike the first two, this one raised a lot of eyebrows.
“I wasn’t sure in the beginning of the year that we would even be in this game,” Haverford coach John Nostrant said. “It’s never good enough to just get there, but this group, I think accomplished a ton. Going into the season, losing all the talent that we lost the last two years, the seniors and the younger guys stepped up and continued to carry the torch for Haverford School.”
Next year, they’ll look to raise it just a little bit higher.