Game 5 Summary

Christopher Lawlor

WASHINGTON – When the Hill Academy (Vaughn, Ontario) hit the reset button on their season earlier this month, head coach Brodie Merrill wasn’t kidding.

“We had just lost three straight games and we had to look inward; we’re not used to losing that many games,” Merrill said. “We went back to work and had spirited practices and challenged the players. Honestly it may have been the best thing for us.”

The Hill is currently playing it’s best lacrosse and the penultimate game of the season proved it.

It was a case of too much Josh Zawada, who sank five goals and assisted twice, while Cornell-bound Billy Coyle played facilitator with four assists and added a goal for good measure in Hill’s impressive 11-6 victory over top-seeded Culver (Ind.) Military Academy on Monday evening in the GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals semifinals at Catholic University’s Cardinal Stadium.

Said Zawada: “Billy is the quarterback of this team and he has the ability break down his man from X.”

“It’s tough to play a team three times in the same season,” CMA head coach Jon Posner said. “The first two times we played they were dogfights. We played sloppy in the third quarter and we didn’t reach the final; that was our goal coming here.”

The Pride (12-4) reserved a spot in the GEICO Lacrosse Nationals final for the second straight year and will face second-seeded Salisbury (Conn.) School or third-seeded Bull School (Potomac, Md.) Tuesday night in the championship at 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Fourth-seeded Hill could taste victory earl in the fourth quarter on the EMO when Josh Zawada dished off to Owen Hiltz, who flipped in a reverse flip-shot that tucked inside goalie Michael Gianfranco’s right post and a precious three-goal bulge at 8-5.

A run of three goals over the final 8:49 just buried the Indiana club.

“As coach always says at halftime the easy half is over and the game was tied or 0-0 and we needed to give our best in the second [half],” Hill’s Billy Coyle said.

This was the third meeting of the season between the two international rivalries that are pipeline programs to the big-time college lacrosse. Hill Academy plays an exclusive schedule against U.S. teams on the road or neutral sites so it can be considered for American high school national rankings. CMA entered the game as the nation’s No. 1 team. That could very well change.

“It’s evolved in the last two years into a great rivalry; the steam of the game has really picked up,” Merrill noted of the rivalry.

Eight days prior to Monday’s contest, Canadian squad won National Prep Championships last in Collegeville, PA, toppling previously unbeaten Culver Military Academy, 10-9, to avenge a loss to them last month. The Eagles won the first meeting, 8-7, in triple overtime in April when Austin Madronic’s marker ended it.

Hill took the game’s first multiple-goal lead with 4:44 remaining in the third when Coyle fed Zachary Young, making it 7-5. Zawada broke the 5-5 tie earlier in the period for the Pride’s fourth lead of the seesaw contest.

No surprise the score was even at 5 after one half. The statistics nearly equal but Culver held a decisive 9 of 11 favor in won faceoffs and 18-10 in ground balls.

Culver’s Madronic leveled the count with five seconds left after Hill’s Zawada clinched his hat trick for a temporary 5-4 edge with 32 seconds to go.

There was a brief momentum shift in favor of the Eagles early in the second frame

Hiltz gave Culver a 4-3 lead but it was Michael Robinson scored a highlight-reel goal at 8:16 of the second quarter. When goalie Brett Dobson (14 saves), a St. Bonaventure signee, made a point-blank save in the crease, the ball spilled to the left side, where an alert Robinson scooped and in one motion deposited it with an over-the-shoulder flip.

Priceless, indeed!

The game opened with a collegiate feel with both teams fielding essentially future NCAA Division I lineups.

Hill led 3-2 through one as Zack Kearney’s goal with 42 seconds to go provided the margin. CMA scored first when Jake Stevens rifled a high shot from 10 yards into the net. Dylan Watson equalized off a turnover and Zawada gave the Pride their first lead at 2-1 with 5:43 left. Alex Simmons, a Denver recruit, knotted it at 2 on an open-field rush down the middle.

Culver concluded 24-2, losing two of three matches at the end—both to Hill Academy.

Simmons topped the Eagles with two goals, Hiltz had a goal and two helpers and the team won 16 of 18 draws. Gianforcaro stopped eight of 19 shots on target.

“In four years our seniors will leave this program in better shape from when they arrived,” Posner said.