Game 6 Summary

Christopher Lawlor

WASHINGTON – No panic on the field. That’s beauty of 21 seniors on your roster. Experience wins games and in some cases pushes you into a national championship game.

It was a run of nine uninterrupted goals spanning from late in the first quarter until the opening four minutes of the fourth demonstrated the resiliency and offensive firepower that second-seeded Salisbury (Conn.) school possesses.

Trailing by three goals in the first, the Crimson Knights spread around the scoring and ratcheted up the defense during a 12-6 victory over Bullis School (Potomac, Md.) Monday in the semifinals of the GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals at Catholic University’s Cardinal Stadium.

“This team knows how to rise to the occasion,” Salisbury head coach Bobby Wynne said. “We play in the one of the nation’s best leagues and it really prepared for us at an event like the GEICO Nationals. We’re senior heavy and they just didn’t panic in the first quarter when we down three goals.”

So, the GEICO Lacrosse Nationals championship game is set, as the Crimson Knights will face defending champion and fourth-seeded The Hill Academy (Vaughn, Ontario) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (ESPNU). Hill’s head coach Brodie Merrill is an alumnus of Salisbury.

Before the Crimson Knights (16-1) take the field, they will take final exams in foreign languages and mathematics on Tuesday morning at their hotel in College Park, Md. As for the game?

“We’re well aware of The Hill Academy; they have a tremendous program and Brodie [Merrill] is a great coach. Both teams came here to compete at a high level. Hill has no weaknesses,” Wynne said.

Eight players scored goals in the victory, including four with two markers apiece. Albany-bound Teioshontathe McComber wound up with two goals and two assists, John Lombardi had two goals and an assist, Jake Sampson sank two goals, as did Amos Gilbery. Salisbury’s Will Mark made four saves in goal.

Salisbury carried an 8-4 edge into the fourth frame as tallying twice in the third and then used a 4-2 run in the final period to double up Bullis. After 32:39 of game action, Bullis junior Jonathan Bender, a Towson pledge, hit the target to make it 10-5 early in the fourth, but the Crimson Knights never flinched and added two more in the final 6:38.

That spotty start and unforgettable first frame was left in the rearview mirror when the Crimson used a 3-0 spurt in the second to carry a 6-4 lead into the intermission. In succession, Salisbury built that edge through Taite Cattoni, Gilbery and Lombardi. McComber was the set-up man with two assists—one in each quarter.

“We like to play quick and fast-paced,” McComber said. “We weren’t playing our game; we settled down and then started winning faceoffs.”

Senior fogo or faceoff specialist Joe Neuman was brilliant at his craft, winning 17 of 19 draws and had an eye-popping 14 ground balls. His ball control kept possession and directly led to a nine-goal run that turned the outcome of the game.

Said Neuman, who is headed to newly minted national champions Yale: “I can’t all the credit on the faceoff because it’s 3-v-3 not 1-v-1. I’m just looking to get the ball to the wings so we can startup the offense and keep possession.”

“You can’t score if you don’t have the ball and win faceoffs,” Bullis head coach Jeff Bellistri said.

Part of Salisbury’s slow start was four of their seven first-half turnover occurred in the first quarter when the Bulldogs went up three goals. Salisbury maintained the advantage from the faceoff, winning 10 of 11 thanks to Neuman, and won the ground-ball battle, 16-7.

Once the second quarter began, Salisbury went on the attack, firing eight shots on goal and held a 14-6 edge through 24 minutes. Bullis managed 5 of 6 clearances.

Uncharacteristically Salisbury fell behind by three goals after Pennsylvania-bound Robert Schain fired home his second of the game at 6:33 of the first. Joe Miller responded for Salisbury just 10 seconds later. Junior attack Connor Shellenberger tripled the lead at 4-1.

More Salisbury timeouts ensued.

“We needed to settle things,” Wynne acknowledged.

The Crimson Knights calmed down for the remainder of the opening period as Simpson and Dawson Wynne tallied and suddenly the Connecticut school’s deficit was reduced to one at 4-3.

The Bulldogs (16-4) won the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) championship, beating Landon School (Va.), 9-8, on May 11 for a seventh straight triumph and extended the streak at GEICO with a win in the first round. The IAC is considered one of the nation’s top leagues counting tournament participants Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.) and St. Stephens & St. Agnes (Alexandria, Va.) as members.

Schain is off to the Ivy League in the fall but recorded a hat trick and assist for four points in his final schoolboy game. Bender had a goal and assist; Virginia-bound Shellenberger added a goal and two assists and Isaac Aronson, who scored the game’s first goal, made one of two shots.

The net-minding tandem of Jonah Scher (three saves) and Jack Fracyon (two) totaled five saves for the Bulldogs, who were outshot 31-15 and crushed in ground balls at 28-9.

Said Bellistri: “We’ve played in other tournaments and the GEICO Nationals a whole other level; it’s first class.”

“We were inspired to play here,” said senior defenseman Kyle Fairbanks, who is off to the Naval Academy this summer. “We’re a close team and this just gave us another chance to play again. We came out hot tonight but the combination of their fogo and depth was a difference.”