2017 GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals, Day 1, Game 4

By Christopher Lawlor

WASHINGTON – Just when nationally ranked Hill Academy (Ontario) appeared ripe for getting upset, up stepped Josh Zawada.

Zawada went goalless in the opening half with limited opportunities, yet with the game on the line and Hill facing elimination, the sophomore midfielder netted a pair of goal in under a minute to snap a tie in the fourth quarter and the Pride topped seventh-seeded Lawrenceville (N.J.) School, 11-8, in the opening round of the inaugural GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals at Catholic University’s Cardinal Stadium.

“He’s playing out of necessity because there are so many injuries to players around him,” Hill Academy head coach Brodie Merrill said. “Josh has been elevated at his position and has stepped up his game.”

Zawada filled the gaps left behind by two players with foot injuries, most recently by junior Riley Curtis.

The second-seeded Pride (13-1) moved onto the semifinals on Monday evening against third-seeded St. St. Sebastian’s School (Needham, Mass.) at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN3. Hill became the fourth higher seed to compose the second round but it game was played on the knife’s edge over the final 15 minutes.

Lawrenceville had plenty of possession in the opening four minute of the final quarter but could not solve goalie Brett Dobson (two saves). It would cost the Big Red.

Zawada responded with two goals only 58 seconds apart and Carter Brand tallied the third at 6:54 just seconds after the draw for an 11-8 lead.

Carter Brand paced the winners with four points, including a hat trick of goals, Zawada had two goals and an assist, Dylan Watson and Mike McCamell had two goals apiece, Dyson Williams collected two assists and a goal and Justin Iancio added a goal.

Since Hill Academy does not compete for a provincial title in Ontario, but instead opts for an exclusive schedule against American high schools, the GEICO Nationals are paramount.

“We want to play with the elite teams,” said Iancio, who will play at Ohio State.

With 1:27 left in the third, Harrison Bardwell tied the game at 8 with hard shot from close range. The Pride gained possession off the ensuing faceoff and swung the ball around the perimeter and actually had three shots saved by senior Ryan Verducci (13 saves).

Hill Academy dominated the first half for long stretches.

The Canadians jumped to leads of 4-1 after one quarter and 7-5 by halftime. After a sluggish start, the Big Red scored four times in the second. Lawrenceville may have slowed in the early going by special circumstances.

Earlier today, the New Jersey prep school held their commencement exercises in the morning before the team took a bus down I-95 (nearly three hours) in time for the start of the nightcap of four games. This week the underclassmen are taking final exams.

“We’ve had an interesting week,” Lawrenceville veteran coach Allen Fitzpatrick said. “There were senior banquets, senior prom, reading day for exams, our underclassmen had two exams on Saturday, there was graduation rehearsal for the seniors and today we graduated. Right after the ceremony we boarded a bus and played here.

“Our players gave us what we wanted. I think the turning point was in the second quarter when the score was tied at 5. We then gave up two goals; I’d like those two minutes back,” he said.

Brendan Egan fired in a hat trick and Harrison Bardwell wound up with two and Conor McDonough had two goals and two assists for the Big Red.

In the first half, Hill Academy received two goals apiece from Brand and Watson, while Williams, McCamell and Iancio all had one.

The Pride was particularly effective on the draw, where they won 10 of 14 faceoffs and both teams committed nine turnovers in opening 24 minutes.

The Big Red’s Egan had a hat trick by the half and McDonough and Will Rice each had one.

The Big Red finished 17-8 after winning their 14th New Jersey Prep A state championship in the last 15 years.