Upper Dublin solves Lower Merion in playoff win

UPPER DUBLIN — The 26th-seeded Aces of Lower Merion weren’t about to come into their opening-round game of the PIAA District One Lacrosse Playoffs without a wrinkle or two.

After all, when you’re the No. 26 seed facing the No. 7 seed, in this case, Upper Dublin, logic dictates that if both sides play to expectations, No. 26 isn’t going to be too successful.

So what Lower Merion head coach Ernie Shapiro threw at the high-scoring Cardinals was a 3-3 zone defense.

And it worked, for a while.

But, eventually, the Cardinals adjusted and trumped the Aces, 15-8, to move on to Thursday’s Round Two, where they’ll face Conestoga, a 13-6 winner over Haverford.

“We came out a little shaky,’ said Cardinals attack Michael Mullen, who scored four times for the winners. “It took us a little while to get into our offense.

“We saw them in practice and we thought we’d see the zone defense, and that’s what we prepared for. But it took a while to get going.’

“I thought we weren’t as crisp as we could have been,’ added Cardinals head coach J.P. Banks. “We needed to play with better energy. But credit some of that to the Lower Merion team.

“They fought us from the opening whistle to the final whistle.’

The Cardinals sputtered early, and actually trailed, 2-1, with under 3:00 left in the first quarter. Aces Jack Shade and Paddy Black did the goal scoring for the visitors, while Upper Dublin could only manage a tally from Nick Vernacchio.

The home team righted the ship, with three goals in a 1:21 span late in the quarter. But Black scored again early in the second period, and the Aces had the look of a team that was not very anxious to go away.

But the Cardinals owned the remainder of the quarter, scoring six of the quarter’s remaining seven goals, and were able to coast into halftime, up, 10-4.

“We lacked a little bit of aggression in our own zone,’ Shapiro said. “And when you have a team like Upper Dublin that has such good stickwork, that’s not a good combination.

“We were just missing getting the ball cleared, and they were finishing.’

Up by six at the break, the Cardinals nursed that lead, and carried a six-goal cushion into the final quarter.

Upper Dublin led by as many as eight goals late in the fourth, and coasted home with a comfortable edge.

But the victory was anything but comfortable.

“At times their zone gave us trouble,’ Banks said, “but we were patient with it. Our assistant coaches had a great plan for what we were going to do. And once we got going we were able to settle in.

“The important thing is that we lived to fight another day.’

“You have to give all the credit to Upper Dublin,’ Shapiro said. “I think we had them out of their comfort zone a little, but not enough.’

END LINES: Lower Merion won seven of the game’s first nine draws, but Upper Dublin faceoff man Paul Chung eventually evened the count at 8-8. By game’s end, the Aces’ owned a 16-10 advantage. … Black and Evan Wolf each had three goals and two assists for the Aces, while Michael Sowers had one goal and seven assists and Mullen and Connor Wall each had four goals for Upper Dublin. … Upper Dublin outshot Lower Merion, 33-31, while the Cardinals goaltending tandem of Bob McPeake and Sean Bowers combined for 10 saves, and the Aces duo of John Williamson and Dan Sibergeld combined to stop seven shots.

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