By Neil Geoghegan
@NeilMGeoghegan on Twitter
KENNETT SQUARE >> A learning curve, wrought from bitter disappointment two days earlier, bent Garnet Valley’s way on Thursday at Kennett.
After blowing a big halftime lead in the district boys’ lacrosse quarterfinal at Downingtown East, the Jaguars faced a similar situation in an important District 1 3A Playback clash with a berth in the PIAA Tournament hanging in the balance. This time, however, Garnet Valley never really let the host Blue Demons get even a sniff of the lead, and went on to prevail 14-8.
“Well, we had to do something different than we did on Tuesday, for sure,” Jags’ head coach Frank Urso said. “We had the same type of lead in the first half – we moved the ball well, found the open guys and finished shots.
“At halftime, we said: ‘forget about the score. We can’t repeat what we did the other night.’ Because (Kennett) is a very good team and you can’t let them make a run.”
Deadlocked in a 3-3 battle through one period, the Jags turned the second quarter into a shooting (and scoring) gallery, pouring in seven straight goals that ultimately put Kennett away, and thwarted their state playoff hopes. The Demons finish the season with a 17-5 mark.
“The second quarter just killed us,” said Kennett head coach Bob Allvord. “You can’t have that at this stage of the season. (Garnet Valley) went on that run and we just could not put it together to stop it. That was, without a doubt, the difference.
“It was a tough quarter. It was the mental part of the game. And you make little mistakes like that, they build, and it’s like a snowball effect.”
Now 13-9 overall, the 13th-seeded Jags will play the (3) Pennridge/(10) Conestoga winner on May 30th in the fifth/sixth place playback. Either way, Garnet Valley has earned a spot in states.
“A similar thing happened last season,” said junior attacker Andrew Goldt. “We lost to Unionville by a goal at our place in the quarters, and we had to rally back like we did today. We are kind of used to it. In the playoffs, we don’t worry about seeds or about how the regular season went.
“We want to be playing our best lacrosse at this stage.”
And it is significant that the Jaguars did it Thursday without standout faceoff specialist Kai Lopez, who missed the contest due to an illness.
“I think it was easy to get over what happened (against Downingtown East),” Urso said. “One of the things I told them was simple: when something like that happens, not so good teams go into the dumps and fold. Great teams come back and take it out on the next opponent. And I asked them to decide which one they are.”
Junior midfielder Joshua Graham had two goals and an assist in the opening quarter, and then Goldt took over in the second for Garnet Valley. He notched two goals in the opening three minutes of the quarter, and later added an assist (to teammate Kris Henning) and another goal following a Kennett turnover deep in its own end. The Jaguars then added two more before the half – including a buzzer-beater by Henning – to make it 10-3 at the half.
“I think our defense played a huge part in it, forcing a lot of turnovers,” Goldt explained. “Our usual faceoff guy was out, but Gavin (Rossello) came in and got us the ball at the X. And we just did our job on the attack.”
Collectively playing for their postseason life, Kennett was beset by a bunch of unforced errors, and the attack never found an effective way to counteract a defense that face-guarded its two stars: seniors Zack Hulme and Colin Jung.
“We had (Kennett) a little out of their game with the defense we played,” Urso acknowledged. “And it was all out of respect. Hulme and Jung are 70 percent of (Kennett’s) offense, so our goal was that if we lose this game, somebody else was going to beat us.
“If they did get the ball, it was an immediate double-team. The game plan was that we wanted to make it difficult for those two guys. And when you make it so that key guys are unavailable, the other guys have to handle the ball, and sometimes they make mistakes.”
Goldt wrapped up a six-goal outing with two more in the third to make it 12-4. And even though the Demons managed to outscore Garnet Valley 4-2 the rest of the way, it was too little and much too late.
“We learned that coming out in the second half that we have to play the same way we played in the first,” Goldt explained. “We wanted to bury (Kennett) rather than give them any hope.”
Playing in the final game of his career, Hulme paced Kennett with five goals, and accumulated more than 250 goals for his high school career — a program record.
“When we fell behind, Zach tried to take this game on his shoulders,” Allvord said. “But what a career he’s had. From the records we found, he’s maybe fifth of sixth all-time in PIAA history. That’s incredible.”
Henning finished with three goals, and Graham had two goals and two assists for the Jags. After the game, Urso presented Goldt with the lacrosse ball to commemorate the 100th goal of his career, which actually happened late in the first half.
“It was nice, but a win feels much better,” Goldt said.
Hulme is headed to play NCAA Division I lacrosse at Marquette in the fall. Jung and key defenders like Luke Frinfrock and Julian Sparacino are also members of a 12-player senior class that helped lead the Demons to a Ches-Mont crown and the state title game two years ago.
“Although this was a tough way to end it, I’m proud of these kids because they gutted it out until the end,” Allvord said.
“Zach, Colin and a lot of the defenders were there in 2021. They are the most successful lacrosse class in Kennett history without a doubt.”
Garnet Valley 14, Kennett 8
Garnet Valley 3 7 2 2 — 14
Kennett 3 0 2 3 — 8
Garnet Valley goals: Goldt 6, Henning 3, Graham 2, Smith, Saccomandi, Burba.
Kennett goals: Hulme 5, Freebery, Maiers, Jung.
Goalie saves: Keaveney (GV) 11; Luongo (GV) 2; Holt (K) 6.
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