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Garnet Valley gets defensive to move on past Cumberland Valley

Jake Morin of Garnet Valley scores one of his two goals for Garnet Valley Saturday. He also had two assists as the Jaguars topped Cumberland Valley, 6-4, in the PIAA Class 3A boys lacrosse quarterfinals. (Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media)

EXETER TWP. >> Garnet Valley coach Frank Urso challenged his players before the start of the boys lacrosse postseason.

Urso told his guys it was time to mix things up, specifically as it pertained to his defensive unit.

“Before the playoffs started, I asked them one question: What’s the definition of insanity?” Urso said. Everyone knows the answer. The Jags weren’t winning a lot of games with repetition.

“I said to them, that if we do the same thing, we’re going to lose pretty early on in the playoffs,” Urso said. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and we have to change who we are, starting right now. I threw some of the craziest defenses at them and told them to learn it, quick, or else we won’t win.

Mitch Lachman (10) and Jake Morin (15) of Garnet Valley celebrate Morin’s goal against Cumberland Valley in PIAA Class 3A boys’ lacrosse quarterfinal Satruday. (Mark Palczewski/For Digital First Media)

“They’re a special group because they bought in, they believed, and they started playing better.”

Urso kept the same personnel as he designed new strategies for a defense that hadn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire. Fast forward a few weeks, the Jags, who were 10-8 after the regular season, are on incredible postseason run. Everyone knows the story. The Jags won the District 1 title as the 15th seed and have continued to play above and beyond anyone’s expectations.

“We are playing with house money,” Urso said. “Nobody expected us to be here.”

After Saturday’s 6-4 triumph over Cumberland Valley, Garnet Valley has moved one step closer to winning a PIAA Class 3A title. The Jags take on District 3 champion Manheim Township, which was an 11-6 winner over Pine-Richland, at a neutral site Tuesday night.

Garnet’s defense limited a high-powered Cumberland Valley attack to four goals Saturday at Exeter High. Austin Patton, Sam Morin and Tyler Davis blanketed their assignments, oftentimes forcing the Eagles into bad shots that resulted in changes of possession. The Jags allowed two goals in each half, as star goalie Jason Rose (10 saves) was an impenetrable force.

“We like to switch things up and we think our poles are very capable of playing one-on-one,” Patton said. “We got everyone sort of flying around and we were communicating a lot. That allowed us to cause some havoc when they were trying to run their normal offense. That was pretty successful for us.”

Jake Morin scored twice in the second half, on passes from Danny Bradley, including a key insurance tally less than three minutes into the fourth quarter. The Eagles trimmed their deficit back to two, but the Jags caused three turnovers in the latter stages, and won battles for possession. Sam Morin’s steal in the waning seconds sealed the win for Garnet.

“Coming into the season, we lost a ton of kids and I know a lot of people didn’t think we would be that good,” Jake Morin said. “But we never stopped working and it’s fun to prove a lot of them wrong.”

Hunter Baar and Nate Ominsky scored in the first quarter to give the Jags a 2-1 advantage. Bradley cashed in on a pass from Jake Morin to make it 3-1 early in the second. Nicholas Sather tallied the first of his two goals to pull the Eagles within 3-2, but Morin found Mitch Lachman to extend GV’s lead to 4-2 before the half. Morin led the way for GV with two goals and two assists.

“The other players cut through and we all know how to find each other,” Morin said. “We have trust in one another to get it done.”

A few weeks ago, Urso threw everything but the kitchen sink at his defense and they responded. And now they’re two wins away from a state title.

“We win with our defense,” Urso said. “That’s how we have made it this far.”

While they aren’t surprising many people any longer, the Jags are still out to show they belong.

“We embrace the underdog role,” Patton said. “Even after winning the district championship, we still see ourselves as underdogs. That drives us to play better, each and every game.”

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