After a 657 day offseason, Saint Ignatius Lacrosse picked up right where they left off two seasons ago, playing high-level lacrosse against some of the state's top teams. The Cats played the Western Reserve Academy Pioneers on Friday, March 19, at their home Wasmer Field in Cleveland.
Western Reserve struck first just four minutes in with a goal from Blake Eiland as the Cats struggled to get shots on target for much of the first quarter before finally breaking the ice and going on a 6-1 run. Junior Griffin Taliak scored the first goal with about five minutes left in quarter one.
Senior captain Kenneth Klubnik scored next on a man-up advantage, and junior Luciano Yacavone followed with two in a row. Junior Drew Wynocker scored next with eight minutes left in quarter two and again with six minutes left off an excellent rebound scoop and score. The Cats were up 6-1 with all the momentum looking to close the half.
WRA struggled mightily for most of the first and second quarter on offense, facing many penalties and harsh defensive response from the Wildcats. The Pioneers gave up many goals in the first and second quarters from playing too loosely off Wildcat attackers. Still, they made both offensive and defensive adjustments late in the second half to begin their comeback.
Late in quarter two (and scarily accurately predicted by SIBN broadcaster Nathan Free), the pioneers clawed their way back, scoring three goals in the last 3:15 from Eiland, Jordan Ito, and Zach Claiborne. The pioneers switched to a heavily one on one approach on this run to score their goals and spread out to make Wildcats' defensive help significantly difficult.
Western Reserve's Ryan Favaro cut it to one just 14 seconds into the second half, but Klubnik restored the two-goal lead and the momentum with a phenomenal behind-the-back goal. After Klubnik's highlight, Junior goalie Logan Rechin almost scored full-field on a clear and just missed the open net from 80 yards away. Eiland scored next to bring the game to 7-6.
Klubnik responded, and Braeden Lair then took one himself off the faceoff and made it 9-6. A Pioneer defender took it from coast to coast and went upper left corner to cut the lead to two before Zach Snider cut it just to a 9-8 lead with a minute to go in the third. The teams were trading goals, but Western Reserve had failed to tie or take the lead since the first quarter.
Wynocker opened the fourth quarter with a rocket to put the Cats up two before Western Reserve cut it to 10-9 with 10:09 left in quarter four. Then, senior captain Adam Ormstead found the back of the net with 5:40 left to go up 11-9 for the Cats, and Klubnik scored again to take a three-goal lead with 4:30 left in the fourth. Then, Western Reserve scored three goals in the last 3:33, including a goal with 16.7 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, the Wildcats missed an opportunity at the game-winning goal. The Pioneers took possession of the period and scored the first goal of sudden death, taking the victory after a remarkable late-game comeback.
Defenders Luca Laspina, Christopher Aerni, and Connor Grace provided the cats with consistent defensive strength for many long stretches of the game that offered many fast break opportunities for the offense and even held the Pioneers scoreless from their first goal until 3:15 left in quarter two, a 17-minute defensive stand.
Lair had a fantastic night from the faceoff dot providing many opportunities for the Cats offense. Captain Kyu Shim and Junior Matt Kempton also did great work from the midfield.
Attackers Yacavone, Wynocker, and Klubnik drew out many long but influential possessions for the Wildcats and did well-doing scoring themselves and moving and passing to make the midfielders' opportunities. Additionally, sophomore defensive midfielders Thomas Nolan and John Leszch looked excellent in their Saint Ignatius debuts, both significant moments late in regulation and overtime.
The JV Wildcats defeated Avon Lake, 7-0, over at McLaughlin Field during the Varsity action on Wasmer. Varsity Blue took home a thrilling 7-6 victory over Avon Lake on Friday night.
On Tuesday, March 23, the Lax Cats will face Cathedral High School of Indiana at Wasmer Field at 7. As well as back on the field Wednesday, March 24, from Wasmer Field, the Cats will play Shaker Heights with JV at 5:00 p.m. and Varsity at 7:00 p.m. Tune in on the SIBN to hear Matt Kelly, Sean Boehm, Nathan Free, Cooper Bastian, and Kurt Pickering on the calls.