WEST GOSHEN — The historical balance in the District 1 Class 2A boys lacrosse final Wednesday night might have appeared to belong to Marple Newtown.
West Chester Rustin was playing in this game for the first time. Marple, meanwhile, had played a game of some consequence at this West Chester East field a year ago in the PIAA Class 2A final, as the district champion.
But graduation dealt a blow to that assumption, and the absence of one of the main scorers on last year’s team, Brian Box, due to illness, evened the field further.
So whatever the pre-game balance might have been, the on-field result Wednesday looked less uneven – less a clearly seasoned foe against a newcomer.
Ultimately, the 15 saves made by Billy Carney in goal decided a 9-4 game in Rustin’s favor. But a Marple Newtown attack that was shut down as it has rarely been this year walked away with plenty to prove as the state tournament beckons.
Some of that is down to Box, but some of it isn’t. A 100-point scorer as a freshman, on a team led by his All-Delco brother Charlie Box, Brian has been out for several weeks and could return before the end of the season. But Marple has performed well without him, getting to the district final with relative ease.
Against Rustin, a Tigers attack that has averaged just shy of 13 goals per game looked like it was missing something, and Box was only part of that.
“Obviously it’s tough,” Joey Yukenavitch said. “He’s a key player in our offense. He contributes a lot, but it’s next man up. We’ve got to keep going. It definitely hurt us, but at times, everybody stepped up and had to do what we have to do.”
Marple endured a drought of 24:09 in the middle of the game, from the time Evan Kostack tied the game 3-all early in the second quarter to Yukenavitch’s goal at 8:11 of the fourth. By that time, it was 7-4 in Rustin’s favor.
While Box was missed, the Tigers know they could’ve done more. Shot selection, with Carney locked in, became a thing. Faceoff man Alex Chambers went 10-for-16, but Rustin neutralized how much offense those wins generated. When the scoring went cold and the deficit widened, possession became important, undercutting the runs that have powered Marple much of the season.
Carney played a bigger role in that than Box or any of the present Marple attackers. He set the tone early, charging off his line to close down shooters and lessen the angle.
“Just being able to cut down the angle and get stops early and get in their head a little bit,” Carney said. “It’s so big for the rest of the game, keeping the momentum going and getting stops.”
“It can be difficult sometimes,” Yukenavitch said. “Tonight’s goalie was good. He had our number.”
Marple at times looked like a team that has just four contributing seniors and four underclass captains. A senior-laded Rustin team, seeded second, pulled what by the seeds was an upset but in practice wasn’t much. Kostack scored twice, and Rob Wagner’s goal early in the first put the Tigers up 2-0. But they were shut down after that, and the midfield in particular was bottled up.
It leaves a Marple team – even one with a recent championship past – with things to learn on the postseason road.
“I want to keep that in the back of my head,” Yukenavitch said of the feeling of defeat. “I want to remember it. I want to come back and I want to be on the other side of it.”