Winning lacrosse titles has become a tradition at John Carroll. Thisyear not even thunder and lightning could keep the Patriots from winning their fourth straight MSA title.
The Patriots (12-3 overall, 8-0 league) defeated Friends, 5-2, to win their third straight MSA BBConference championship Friday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. They won the B Conference title in 1988.
A line of thunderstorms rolled through in the fourth quarter, stopping the game for about half an hour, but it could not stop the Patriots' title drive.
"It's always better to win as a senior when you're going out," saidPatriots midfielder Zach Thornton, who will play lacrosse for national JUCO champ Essex Community College next spring."That break really helped us, because we were getting tired."
ThePatriots held a 3-2 lead when the storm hit with 5:09 left in the game, and they never gave it up.
"When you hold them to two goals, you should win," said Patriots coach Boo Smith. "When you play a team three times, they know what you do, they know your weaknesses and it is always hard. Our defense was super."
Until Tuesday, Smith and the Patriots had expected to play tough archrival McDonogh for the title. But in a playoff Tuesday for second place in the conference, Friends knocked off McDonogh, 9-8, in overtime.
Make no mistake, the Patriots have plenty of respect for any team that can beat McDonogh, especially any team that can score nine goals on the Eagles. The last time the Patriots met McDonogh they eked out a 2-1 win.
"Friends showed us in that game that we were going to have our hands full," said Smith. "They have come a long way this season."
During the regular season, John Carroll won 7-5 and 9-3 victories over the Quakers (10-5, 6-3). The Patriots got a break when the Quakers had to play the title game without one of their top attackmen, senior Kyle Swann, whowas hurt in the McDonogh game.
But Swann's presence might not have made a difference the way the Patriots' defense played Friday. Starting defensemen Dave Stever, Brian O'Mailey and Pete Tapley cut off all the angles. Friends had 24 shots, but many were well off the mark.
When the Quakers did shoot well, they usually found goalie Stash Rote in the way. The senior had 11 saves, including a couple of spectacular ones.
"Our defense has never played a bad game," said Thornton. "They're always consistent. And Stash played a great game. I give them a lot of credit for this win."
In the early going, both teams played tight defense. Nobody managed a goal through the first 16 and a half minutes.
Friends scored first, an extra-man goal on JohnCarroll's first penalty of the day. A little over a minute later, however, with the Patriots in extra-man offense, Brian Turk tied the game on a pass from Thornton.
Two minutes into the third quarter, Thornton scored unassisted for a 2-1 lead.
A few minutes later Friends suffered another blow to their offense when Swann's replacement, David Sagafi-Nejad, went down with a broken foot.
Still, the injurydidn't stop Friends. Steve Benerjee answered Thornton's goal with anunassisted one of his own for a 2-2 tie with 2:23 left in the quarter.
"Each year this game is a tight one," said Smith. "It always goes down to the end. Every one's got me breathing hard."