Faust’s masterpiece keys Ridley romp

RIDLEY — The maxim has been repeated to the point of cliché, but when Dawson Faust uttered it Thursday afternoon, it didn’t ring quite so trite.

“I think the first shot, if it’s a save, can make or break a game,’ the Ridley goalie said. “If you don’t save that first shot, you may shut down motivation for the team. If you make that first save and it’s a good save, you’re team is as good as can be.’

Faust had just finished accumulating plenty of evidence to back up his point. The Ridley goalie didn’t just stop the first one or two shots. Try the first 15 hurled his way by Strath Haven in a 9-1 win by Ridley, backstopped by Faust’s 18-save masterpiece.

Keeping the Panthers off the board for the game’s first three quarters was by no means a solo effort. But Faust was the last line of defense, one who, as he volunteered, didn’t enter riding a wave of momentum after a shaky season debut in Ridley’s 20-5 win over Upper Darby Tuesday.

All that was erased shot by shot and brick by brick, as Faust helped build a wall in front of the Ridley goal.

The capstone was the third quarter, when Strath Haven rocketed 15 shots in Faust’s general direction. He got some part of his body or stick in front of 10 of the cage-bound missives, his confidence snowballing with each save.

“I’m ready to go. Bring it. Come on,’ Faust said. “Let’s see what you’ve got. I don’t think you can score on me.’

The shutout bid ended 1:58 into the fourth quarter when Jake Ross grabbed a groundball in a chaotic sequence, rounded the cage, deked a defender and finally found a way past Faust.

But that was all that Ridley’s defense would allow.

Faust’s brilliance was most obvious, but it was also fostered by some stinginess in front of him. The defense, marshalled by Jon Lyman, Mike Cropper and Seamus Boyle, kept things compact and organized, allowing Strath Haven (1-1, 1-1 Central) to fire at will from 10 to 15 yards out, shots that the in-rhythm Faust gobbled up.

Switching between man-to-man and zone looks, the Ridley defense shut down everything Strath Haven was trying to do. Lyman looked after Jack Borbee, muting the dynamic sophomore to just two shots, both off target, in the fourth quarter. The rest of his mates didn’t fare much better.

“The plan was we were all going to get tight and make sure we had our head on a swivel and protect,’ Lyman said. “It was just team defense, not focus on one person but focus on the team as a whole.’

That emphasis is where the Panthers’ attack failed to respond. Ross was miffed at his team’s lack of movement without the ball and the inability to form cohesive attacking plans, with possessions often devolving into players going on their own. Those tendencies allowed Ridley to funnel attackers toward shooting areas that were advantageous for the defense, shots Faust could see and easily measure.

“You can’t let somebody dictate the way you play lacrosse,’ Ross said. “You have to dictate the way you play lacrosse, and I think that comes from off-ball movement. I think we were a little too static on the outside watching plays go. We need to be a little more creative. We kind of stayed in our base sets.’

All that stinginess on defense gave the Ridley offense a platform from which to launch. After a ragged first few minutes, the Green Raiders (2-1, 2-0) gained steam, and the second of Brock Anderson’s four goals gave them a 3-0 lead with two ticks left in the first quarter.

From there, the cycle only escalated: The longer Faust and his defense held out, the more Strath Haven was forced to press, leading to less ideal chances, more futility and a more emboldened Ridley attack that could toggle between attacking and killing time.

“When our defense plays like that, it gets us that mindset that we have the time, and we want to give them the time to relax and give them that break from playing so much defense,’ Anderson said. “So we just surveyed the field, and coach just said, ‘˜take ’em. Do what you do and be yourself.’ And that won us the game.’

Nolan Fox, who set up Bill Rouse’s second-quarter tally, ripped one home with 45 seconds left in the half to make it 5-0 at halftime. Nick Fox had the only goal of the third quarter, then added another early in the fourth before Anderson scored twice 23 seconds apart — the first after Joe Minnick absorbed all kinds of punishment to dump off to Anderson with a flag down — to set the final margin.

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