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Garnet Valley’s ‘crazy ride’ ends in semifinals

Garnet Valley’s Danny Bradley tries to escape the grip of two Manheim Central defenders Tuesday. Manheim dominated the Jaguars in a 15-6 win in the PIAA Class 3A semifinal. (Mark Palczewkski/For Digital First Media)

EXETER TWP. >> After Garnet Valley watched its improbable playoff run end Tuesday night at Exeter High School, sophomore standout Mitch Lachman offered his reflection.

“What a crazy ride,” he said after a 15-6 loss to Manheim Township in the PIAA Class 3A semifinal. “We were almost at a .500 (record) at the start of the playoffs. Winning the district championship was incredible and we get it going in states.”

Garnet Valley captured a District 1 championship and advanced to the final four of the PIAA Class 3A tournament. Not bad for a club that was 10-8 after the regular season and a 15 seed.

“We knew it was going to come together, we’re a really young team,” Lachman said. “We don’t have any seniors on the offense, only about three on defense. We knew we would struggle in the beginning, but we knew we could be a good team.”

The Jags were a very good team. Their opponent Tuesday was at another level.

A defense that made drastic improvements and carried the club on its postseason journey couldn’t solve Manheim Township’s multi-faceted attack. The District 3 champion Blue Streaks are the first boys lacrosse team from outside the Philadelphia area (District 1/District 12) to qualify for a state final.

The Jags committed eight first-quarter turnovers, despite owning a 6-3 edge on faceoffs. Manheim capitlized on a pair of Garnet Valley penalities, leading to four goals with the man-up.

The Blue Streaks pounced on the Jags from the get-go, too. Sean Curcio tallied 19 seconds into regulation, and Manheim grabbed a 2-0 lead on a goal by Eddie Newman. Hunter Baar gave the Jags hope, scoring to cut the deficit in half four minutes into the period. But that’s when the Jags began to self-destruct, as Manheim rattled off five unanswered goals to end the period.

“We scouted them really well — our coaches did a phenomenal job — and we knew a lot about them,” said Curcio, who registered four goals. “We knew we had to come out strong and fly around. Our shots we definitely on. Our game plan was to shoot bouncers and to change levels, and they were falling early. We just wanted to keep shooting.”

Curcio and Grayson Sallade, a University of Virginia signee, were particularly bothersome for the Jags.

“We tried to lock off their two best players … but they didn’t have just two best players, they had six best players,” said Lachman, who had one of the Jags’ goals. “We were switching it up throughout the game, but it didn’t work out too well. You can’t blame (the defense). They played tough and they’ve been great all throughout the playoffs.”

Manheim is poised to become the team that can knock off a Philly area lacrosse program in a state final. Its opponent, District 12 champion La Salle, is vying for its fifth state title and first since 2013.

“We’re going to need a lot of preparation and hard work,” Curcio said. “We have to know them inside and out.”

Bryce Stansfield scored two fourth-period goals for the Jags (16-9). Jake Morin and Hunter Baar each chipped in with a goal and an assist.

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