St. Paul's lacrosse coach Mitch Whiteley never questioned Severn's 11-0 record and 135-38 goals-against advantage before the teams met yesterday. "I don't care who you play -- you don't win 11 and score that amount without being tough," he said.
Whiteley was right. Severn was tough, but St. Paul's still had the firepower and command of fundamentals to defeat the host Admirals, 10-9, in the league opener between Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference Division II rivals.
Control of faceoffs and ground balls enabled the fourth-ranked Crusaders (5-0, 1-0) to rally from the last of four one-goal deficits and mount a 9-5 edge on Mike Watson's man-up shot with 9 minutes, 45 seconds to play.
St. Paul's still led by 10-8 when Tim Whiteley beat Graydon Ripley around the crease to score with 1:45 left. But Severn made things interesting with Milford Marchant's blast from the wing 15 seconds later and an extra-man opportunity in the last 54 seconds.
However, Crusaders goalie Tom Keratzes knocked down Spencer Reckner's shot from the top and defenseman Mac McCullogh cleared the ball away.
Whiteley and Severn coach Peter Trau agreed that Crusaders' dominance in the middle stretches was critical. "They beat us to ground balls and faceoffs early, but we came back and kept the pressure on them," Whiteley said.
That was mostly because Joe Gelbard won seven of nine faceoffs after Marchant claimed the first seven. "He [Marchant] was really quick and really strong. I hadn't seen anybody that good in the early games," Gelbard said. "But once I figured out how to counteract, I started getting the ball."
Gelbard's quick clamp-and-push, coupled with help from his wings, helped St. Paul's control play after No. 6 Severn (11-1, 0-1) took its last lead, 4-3, on Jason Wade's third goal of the first half.
Scores by Watson and Kyle Durkee built a 5-4 halftime lead. Then St. Paul's dominated in faceoffs (4-1), ground balls (9-5) and shots (11-4) in a third quarter that ended with unanswered goals by Rob Bouse, Durkee and Watson, who finished with a team-high three.