After enjoying a great victory on Friday, the Saint Ignatius lacrosse program experienced a very difficult defeat on Saturday.
The Wildcats bested Kiski Prep (PA) on Friday, 11-9, but fell to St. Xavier on Saturday, 10-9.
The Lax Cats were playing in their first-ever Midwest Tournament A Bracket Championship, looking to make history. Instead, the Bombers snatched the crown for the second time in as many seasons.
Friday's game offered plenty of promise for a historic day on Saturday. The Wildcats started out fast against Kiski, leading 4-2 at the end of the first quarter thanks to three goals by Jack Moriarity. The Wildcats kept up the pressure through the second quarter, with Merick Hartley adding an exclamation point to send the No. 1 seed into the break with an 8-4 lead.
Kiski scored two of the first three goals of the third to get back in the game at 9-6. Michael Boehm scored to extend the lead, but Kiski found the back of the net to place the score at 10-7 after three.
Early in the fourth, Kiski tallied a clutch goal to narrow the deficit to two. Later in the stanza, Hartley provided a huge goal to cushion the blow of two Kiski tallies. With 1:52, Saint Ignatius burned a timeout to talk shop. The strategy out of the timeout worked, as the Lax Cats held off Kiski to walk away with an 11-9 win.
The Wildcats and Bombers started off much more slowly in the rematch than in the first contest of the season between the two programs, when Saint Ignatius jumped out to a big early lead. The Wildcats did own an advantage after the opening period on Saturday, but a slight one. Goals by Connor Cmiel and Hartley granted the Cats a 2-1 lead after one.
The Bombers tied the contest early in the second before taking the lead, 3-2, with a marker at 3:52. Kenneth Klubnik stopped a potential St. Xavier rally, burying a shot off a nice pass from Moriarity. The teams stood deadlocked at 3 goals apiece entering the second half after a defensive affair in the first 24 minutes.
The third quarter belonged to the Bombers. St. Xavier won 4-of-5 faceoffs and enjoyed a 10-2 shot advantage in the period. The Cincinnati Jesuits scored three goals in the first 2:30 of the quarter, and then one more at 6:59. The Bombers carried a 7-3 lead into the fourth, and looked to be on the edge of running away with the game.
Enter Jack Moriarity.
The senior played a crucial role in getting the Wildcats right back into the game. The veteran attacker connected with Michael Boehm just over a minute into the quarter, and Boehm found the back of the net to turn the tides. Less than a minute later, Mort danced and zinged a shot into the net off a Charlie Kinzel pass. Two minutes later, Kinzel worked with Hartley to bring the Wildcats within one.
After a few minutes of relative quiet, Mort fired up the Saint Ignatius scoring machine, touching twine with 4:42, tying the game at 7-7 off a Cmiel assist. Suddenly, it was a whole new game.
Two minutes later, for the first time since 11:03 of the second quarter, the Wildcats found themselves in the lead. Nate Conry slung a pass to Boehm, who looked like a wizard in scoring with 2:24 left in regulation. The Bombers answered a minute later, but Boehm worked his magic again with 1:15 remaining. Just 16 seconds after the Bombers' goal, Boehm scored to retake the lead, 9-8.
An inopportune penalty call on the Cats with 24 seconds remaining allowed St. Xavier a man-up opportunity. The Bombers took advantage, tying the game with a tally with just 13 seconds left to play. The score stood at 9-9 entering overtime.
In the end, the Bombers found a way to win. St. Xavier managed to find the back of the net first, breaking the hearts of Wildcats fans with a game-ending goal in sudden death.
The 10-9 loss sends the Wildcats to 14-4 on the year, and marks the squad's first in-state loss of the season.
However, the Wildcats have plenty of positive things to take away from the game.
First off, the Lax Cats dominated the ground ball battle, 31-17. That kind of one-sided stat is rare for a close game. The Wildcats can also find solace in the 6-goal outburst in the fourth quarter. This Saint Ignatius team can find goals when needed, and did not crumble when the odds appeared to be stacked against them.
The balanced scoring is also a positive. Five different Wildcats scored and seven recorded points. John Coughlin led the way with 8 ground balls, but 15 Wildcats notched at least one GB, a sign that every player on the roster is willing to scrap and claw for a free ball. Charlie Minerd also played well in the win, notching 9 saves to 6 by the St. Xavier goalie.
The Wildcats also survived a wave of penalties, five against the top-seeded Cats versus just two for the Bombers. Saint Ignatius killed 4-of-5 man-up chances for St. Xavier.
With the Midwest Tourney complete, the Wildcats' focus turns towards the OHSAA Tournament.
The Wildcats' journey starts on Tuesday. The Lax Cats will host Cleveland Heights in a second-round contest on Wasmer Field, slated for 6 pm.