WEST GOSHEN >> Sure, Springfield-Delco is the returning state champion in boys lacrosse, but coming into Thursday evening’s District 1-2A final, the Cougars still had more to prove.
Knocked off by the eventual district champ, Upper Dublin, in last season’s district semifinals, No. 1 Springfield looked to claim its second district title in three years.
The Cougars brought their defense to Harold I. Zimmerman Stadium at West Chester East, and it was just enough against West Chester Henderson’s equally stingy defense. Springfield scored with a minute left in the third quarter to make it 4-3, and that score stood as the Cougars became, once again, district champions.
“Two years ago we were the district champs and at the time, we didn’t really understand what it meant,” Springfield coach Tom Lemieux said. “We know now how good this district is, and I’m just so proud of the kids. They worked their butts off. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but we’re tough and gritty and fortunately we were on the right side of the score.”
Second-seeded Henderson got on the board first, halfway through the opening quarter, when Archer Rymiszewski finished a pass from Joe Saulino. The Warriors controlled the ball for a good chunk of the first, but quality shots were few and far between the rest of the night and they didn’t score again for 16 game minutes, when Nick Mascetti found the back of the net.
“They’re really good,” Mascetti said of the Springfield defense. “They pack it in really tight and it’s hard to get any dodges. When you do get a shot, their goalie is one of the best in the state. They’re really good as a unit.”
That goalie Mascetti spoke of is James Spence, and he had 10 saves in the contest. He and the defense held the fort while the offense found its chances.
Ben Garcia scored with a minute left in the first to get Springfield on the board, and Joe Debarnardi gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead three minutes into the second. Kyle Long, who also had two assists, pushed the lead to two a minute later.
“(Long) is one of the best players in the country and he’s so poised in big spots,” Lemieux said. “The guys know how to play around him and he’s unselfish, always looking to get guys involved.”
Henderson’s Matt Turse tied the game at three just over a minute into the third quarter, but Springfield put the clamps on the remainder of the game. The Warriors had two shots to tie in the final minutes, but neither found the goal.
“I was definitely thinking we needed a couple of big stops, and I have great trust in the defense and defensive middies,” Spence said. “We trust each other and have each other’s backs.”
Michael Tulski scored the game-winner off a pass from Long for the Cougars to set them up with the fifth-place finisher from District 3 in the opening round of the state tournament on Tuesday.
“We were presented with the opportunity and wanted to capitalize on it,” Spence said. “Winning the district is huge because this is a very good district. We were focused and wanted to win it.”
Henderson will enter states against the District 12 runner-up, Tuesday, after holding the Cougars for a tie of their season low, four goals.
“We learned we can compete with anyone in the state,” Mascetti said. “They’re the state champs and we proved we’re for real and can really run with anyone.”
Henderson coach Paul Stankewicz echoed his senior’s sentiments and hopes his squad can play four more games this season.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” Stankewicz said. “We played about as well as we could have and I think (Springfield) played about as well as they could. It could’ve gone either way. … We got on a good streak and maybe we can start a new streak the next game.”
Springfield-Delco 4, West Chester Henderson 3
W.C. Henderson 1 1 1 0 — 3
Springfield-Delco 1 2 1 0 — 4
Henderson goals: Rymiszewski, Mascetti, Turse.
Springfield goals: Garcia, Debarnardi, Long, Tulski
Goalie Saves: Dampman (WCH) 7, Spence (S) 10.