SPRINGFIELD – The mantra of Springfield boys lacrosse, through all the district and state banners, has always centered team lacrosse. Noble a sentiment as that is, it can feel occasionally difficult to pin down.
But Saturday morning, the Cougars produced a textbook illustration.
In a low-scoring affair against Conestoga, the momentum was in balance in the third quarter when Chase Kelly scored to tie the game with 9:01 left. Eleven seconds later, the Cougars went ahead, on a faceoff won by Colin Hannigan, a groundball scooped in traffic by Ryan O’Connor, to a goal by sophomore sharpshooter Tyler Gougler.
From that tidy distillation of everything the program is about, the fourth-seeded Cougars ran away from No. 12 Conestoga, six straight goals powering a comprehensive 8-3 win in the District 1 Class 3A quarterfinals.
Springfield (16-4) advances to the District 1 semifinals, to take on top-seeded Radnor Tuesday night. It is also in the state tournament for the eighth consecutive time since 2014, all but the canceled 2020 season.
Given the stakes, Saturday’s performance earned a place in the pantheon of magisterial Springfield performances. They found a way to figure out Patrick Jameison, the junior goalie committed to Duke who made 16 saves and can singlehandedly steal a game. They also limited Conestoga (12-8) to just nine total shots – not on goal, total attempts – by dominating possession, blanketing Conestoga with an aggressive and well-drilled defense, and smartly working the clock for good looks.
The game was in balance when Kelly scored to make it 2-2. But Gougler’s riposte came via Hannigan, who went 13-for-14 at the X. Springfield went up 4-2 just 31 seconds later when Jimmy Kennedy potted a touch pass from Bryan Seavey. Then Gougler scored in transition, after a Shane Phillips caused turnover, to make it 5-2 with 3:36 left in the third.
“It was huge because when we can keep winning and we’re scoring right after back-to-back-to-back, it smothers team,” Hannigan said. “They feel like they’ve got nothing that they can do.”
Springfield’s defense had no intention of conceding that many goals. It caused 13 turnovers, led by three each from Nick Labutis and O’Connor, the senior Penn State signee. Connor Roache and Phillips chipped in two apiece.
“They’ve been the same all year,” Hannigan said of the defense. “Letting up three or four goals, it’s crazy. They’ve been locked down. It does not matter who we play; they always come to play. ”
Jameison was outstanding. He stopped eight shots in each half, and really only allowed six goals (two came late with him pressing out of the cage). With his formidable frame, he’s outstanding on low shots, clinical in clearances and heady in picking off loose feeds around the cage. The battle against him is as much mental as physical.
And when Springfield retreated to the locker room at halftime leading 2-1, the challenge was in not getting discouraged.
“We were getting shots,” said Kennedy, who with Gougler led the Cougars with two goals and an assist. “They’re going to start falling. Especially in the third quarter, we scored three pretty fast. If you think about it too much, he’s going to keep making saves, get easy clears and fastbreaks. He’s got to not get in your head and you keep shooting. “
“I was seeing shots from far out, and our defense was doing a really good job of keeping them out of the middle,” Jameison said. “I’m pretty confident in us getting those stops and getting it up to our offense, and we were doing a really good job of doing that.”
Gougler found Kennedy after a long possession with 9:38 left to all but ice it. Sean Donaldson and Matt Dickinson added goals into the open cage – even if Jameison did recover on one such passage to kick away a Dickinson shot with a ludicrous save. Patrick Reilly scored his second goal of the game in the final minute, but it was not enough to knock Springfield off its states course.
“We always say we want to be playing our best lacrosse in May,” O’Connor said. “… Everyone’s just locking in and playing to that mantra.”