St. Francis de Sales isn’t necessarily a team University School boys lacrosse should have battled from behind, but the host Preppers struggled to exert their dominance in the first half on Saturday afternoon at Scovil Field in Hunting Valley.
The maroon-and-black laxers were heavily favored on paper, but the visiting Knights didn’t travel all the way from Toledo without a purpose.
A common opponent, defending Division I state champion Cincinnati St. Xavier put a 19-2 hurting on St. Francis during a season opener on March 16, before the powerhouse Bombers struggled to post an 8-6 victory against University School a week later.
According to Burning River Lacrosse’s coaches poll, University School (6-2) is ranked No. 3 among programs across northern Ohio, while St. Francis (3-6) is not in the top 10.
But it’s not like St. Francis is a shabby program. Afterall, the Knights were a Division II regional semifinalist as a top team out of Northwest Ohio last year.
And although US senior attackman George Brinn opened the scoring for the Preppers in Saturday’s affair, and fellow all-state senior George Curley buried a 2-1 goal, St. Francis drew the upper hand with a 5-4 tally in the final minute before intermission.
University’s other two goals of the first half came from senior midfielder Connor Zwagerman, the first being unassisted and the latter coming on an extra-man feed from attackman Curley.
The problem for St. Francis was that a one-goal lead against a program that’s known to shine in the second half under fourth-year head coach Hans Rydquist wouldn’t be enough, not to mention that Zwagerman was just heating up.
The Knights’ defense did render University without a goal for the first 7 1/2 minutes out of the break, but then Zwagerman opened the floodgates for a 6-1 spree in the final 16 1/2 minutes of the game for the Preppers’ eventual 10-6 victory.
University junior midfielder Miles McIlvaine scored the go-ahead goal, 6-5, with 2:53 remaining in the third frame, and then Zwagerman assisted 6-foot-3 all-state senior defender Jake Kapp to open the fourth quarter.
Less than a minute later, Brinn netted his second tally of the day for a three-goal lead, before St. Francis could cut it back to two on the Knights’ lone goal of the second half.
Zwagerman and McIlvaine hammered the nails in the coffin in the final 2 1/2 minutes for the four-goal victory.
US all-state senior goalie Critter Coughlin earned the victory between the pipes.
Returning to Scovil Field on Tuesday night, University extended its win streak to five during an 18-10 result against North Canton Hoover (4-6).
Also during the Preppers’ streak, they defeated Kenston, 14-1, Burning River’s No. 6-ranked Hudson, 11-7, and Hawken School, 13-5.
Up next, University will host No. 2-ranked Chagrin Falls (8-0) at 5 p.m. Thursday at Scovil Field, which will be a showdown of Division II powerhouses that have met in the playoffs the last three years in regional championship games.
In last season’s regular season meeting, University defeated Chagrin, 11-10, on Brinn’s unassisted game-winner with seven seconds remaining, before the Tigers went on to get their revenge, 11-10, behind a four-goal performance by then-senior Kaeden Kalinyak in the postseason.
Chagrin Falls is unbeaten this season, as the Tigers are coming off a 12-4 road victory against Burning River’s No. 8-ranked Rocky River (7-3) on Tuesday night.
The Tigers also have marquee victories against defending Division II state champion Columbus St. Francis DeSales, 6-5, on March 17 and reigning Division II state runner-up Toledo Ottawa Hills, 13-2, on April 5.