May 16th, 2012
St. Xavier Rains Down On Ballard In Semis
Schickel, Muldoon propel Tigers to lacrosse final
Sports competitions can sometimes be summed up as a tale of two halves, where momentum shifts wildly from one side to the other after the halftime break.
With ominous skies surrounding the area, the St. Xavier Tigers and Ballard Bruins took to the field to decide who would advance to the lacrosse state final. For St. X, an opportunity to earn a 5th straight state championship was on the line in this Kentucky Lacrosse Association Division-I state tournament semifinal at Brother Thomas More Stadium.
And for the first seven minutes, Ballard dominated the action. But following a weather delay that lasted sixty-two minutes, the Tigers steamrolled their opponents scoring 9 straight goals en route to a 9-5 win and a trip to their 11th state final in 12 seasons.
Under heavy, threatening clouds, the Bruins struck first and often. With precision and speed the Ballard offense notched five goals within a span of 3:09, weaving in and around the St. X defense, picking up ground balls, finding open spaces around the goal and scoring with relative ease.
And then the lightning struck. And the thunder roared. And the rains poured. And with the teams sent back to their locker rooms with 4:56 remaining in the first period to wait out the storm, someone flipped a switch for both teams.
“They (Ballard) were very excited and pumped up and were just flat,” admitted St. X head coach Scott Howe of the pre-storm blitzkrieg that the visiting Bruins put up. “We weren’t contesting ground balls and we gave Ballard uncontested shots right in front of the goal. I don’t care who your goalie is, you can’t do that. And we took some dumb shots on offense. In those first seven minutes, we had maybe five seconds of consistent offense.”
Before the storm, it looked like Ballard was playing against a team of novice players. They moved where they wanted and when they wanted. They were the more physical, aggressive team and they built that 5-0 lead by taking advantage of several lapses in the St. X defense.
“Much credit to Ballard for taking the action to us,” said St. X senior Brad Schickel. “They came out real strong and we weren’t ready for it.”
Ballard’s Will Downer, who had three goals on the evening, opened the scoring at 8:52 of the first period. With plenty of Bruin attackers swarming the net, Clark Watts scored their second goal at 7:01. Downer scored another at 6:13 and Sam Browning scored just seven second later to put the Bruins up 4-0. Downer collected his third goal at the 5:43 mark to give Ballard a 5-0 lead and it seemed as though the route was on.
At that point in the match, Ballard put six shots on goal and scored five times. They consistently beat the Tigers to 50-50 balls and maintained 80% of the possession. St. X goalie Eric Hoffman’s head was spinning from being attacked at every angle.
The first crack of lightning was about the only thing that could slow down the Bruins attack. And Howe used that long delay to relay some simple messages to his team.
“We talked about how we had to run our offense,” said Howe. “We had to control the ball. We overloaded their zone (defense) on one side which allowed us to move the ball quickly and gave us some good scoring opportunities. They can’t score when we have the ball.”
In a lacrosse match, a 5 goal deficit with 41 minutes remaining is not that difficult a hill to climb and Howe emphasized that point to his team:
“I told them when we came back out on the field: ‘Guys, there’s only seven minutes gone and there’s three full quarters to go. You’re going to win this ball game. One (goal) at a time. Shut them down—they don’t score any more goals—and we’re going to come back one goal at a time. And at the end of the day, we’re going to be playing in that championship game.’”
When play resumed, the Tigers looked like a completely different team. The holes in the defense were shored-up. The offense possessed the ball and moved it around with purpose. And though they didn’t score in that first quarter, they got off three quality shots against the Bruins defense.
With the offense heating up, it took just three minutes into the second quarter for the Tigers to get on the board. Senior Patrick Muldoon scored the first of his four goals at 8:56. Schickel, who tallied five points on four assists and one goal, scored next for the Tigers at the 6:44 mark. Raike Thornwill followed with a goal after collecting a sweet pass from Schickel to make cut the Ballard lead to 5-3. And Muldoon finished off the first half scoring with a sizzling shot off of a spin-o-rama move to close the gap to 5-4.
“We came out pretty flat and re-grouped in the locker room,” stated Muldoon. “We didn’t say much, kind of kept to ourselves and thought about what we needed to do to get the team going. We came out aggressive, motivated and overcame the adversity very well.”
The Tigers tied the score at 5-5 at the 9:08 mark of the third quarter on a goal from Will Roshkowski, with Schickel getting the assist. Five minutes later, Muldoon recorded a hat trick scoring his third goal of the game and giving the Tigers the lead for good. 28 seconds later, Zayne Smith extended the Tigers lead to 7-5 with Schickel earning another assist.
“Coach reminded us to make the easy play and possess the ball,” said Muldoon. “And Schickel always has his eyes open and looking for an open man. He’s No. 2 in Division-I in points so that says it all about his play.”
Schickel earned his final assist on Smith’s second goal with 7:01 remaining in the game, and Muldoon closed out the scoring with 1:54 to go to set the final at 9-5.
“I was just looking to find open guys when we overloaded one side,” said Schickel. “We had some open guys in the crease and I was just trying to get it to them. We’ve got a few things to correct before the final, but we’ve overcome a lot of adversity this year and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Tigers scored nine unanswered goals in the final 33 minutes of the match. Blanking the Bruins was a team effort, but Hoffman, a two-time state champion goalie, made 10 saves on the evening and completely stymied the Ballard shooters after the rain delay. He is aiming for another shot at championship glory this Friday against arch rival Trinity.
Said Hoffman: “I’m looking forward to our team representing our school well, coming together as brothers and winning another state championship.”
The Tigers will travel to Trinity for Friday’s state championship match. Face-off is set for 8:00pm at Marshall Stadium.