Mainland boys lacrosse falls in state playoffs
LINWOOD — The Mainland boys lacrosse team was in control Friday heading into the fourth quarter. The host Mustangs had a 10-8 lead on Jackson Liberty in the second round of the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs and their defense had just posted a scoreless third quarter. But having faceoff man Teddy Bergman out with a hip injury ultimately cost Mainland, and its best season ever came to a heartbreaking end as the Lions rallied for a 14-11 victory.
"I said it about the Ocean City game, too, possession is the key. We couldn't get the ball on faceoffs as well as we'd like. Our faceoff guy was out with a hip flexor injury. We put two other guys in and they did the best they could. Antonio Yeoman stepped up huge and won several faceoffs. But when you're used to winning 75 percent of your faceoffs and you go down to 25 percent, now you have to get the ball back. Throughout the season, we never had to pressure anyone for a takeaway like we did today," said Mainland coach Clayton Smith. "That's how we beat Lower Cape May here. We beat Lower Cape May the same way — we got a two-goal lead, we got possession, and we held the ball for three-and-a-half minutes. When you can possess the ball longer than they can, you're the team that wins. We just kept turning the ball over, or not getting the takeaway; they had the ball longer than we did and they got a couple more goals than we did."
Tyler Kalmowitz of Jackson Liberty (12-5) caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring three straight goals to give the fifth-seeded Lions an 11-10 lead. His third goal came with 4:53 left, and he added another goal with 3:14 remaining to push the lead to 13-10. He finished with a game-high six goals.
"He was like a bull, man. He was a linebacker on a football team. There's always that one person that nobody can stop. We had him for most of the game, he just couldn't be stopped," said Ethan Irizarry, who finished with two goals and three assists for fourth-seeded Mainland (17-3).
Jackson Liberty advances to face No. 1 Moorestown, which dominated West Windsor-Plainsboro South 16-2 in its quarterfinal matchup. The Quakers are 16-3 and came into the week ranked 17th in the state by nj.com.
Jackson Liberty took a 4-3 lead on Mainland on a goal by Matt Ferullo late in the first quarter, but the Mustangs tied the game at 4 when Ryan Swenson scored off a turnover. Each team scored four more times in the second quarter, with Irizarry netting a goal just three seconds before halftime to knot the game, 8-8. Mustangs goalie Hunter Faunce shut the Lions out in the third quarter, making several big saves — something he has done all year for Mainland.
"He's a great goalie," Irizarry said. "He's made a lot of great saves in the past three games, and really held us in those games. We just couldn't get it done on offense, but he kept us in the game. He's a great player."
Faunce finished with 15 saves while Jackson Liberty's Chris Mullholland countered with 14. The Mustangs' inability to gain possession in the fourth quarter, however, put a strain on Faunce and allowed the Lions to gain momentum and ultimately take the lead with six unanswered goals.
Swenson scored three goals and had three assists for Mainland, and finished his career with a pair of school records. His 61 goals this season were a single-season mark, and he finished as the school's all-time leading goal scorer with 147.
"This was definitely one of the great (seasons). I was just happy to be around these boys. They are like family to me, and we played as a unit the whole year," Irizarry said. "(Our success) will definitely sink in. It was our best season. No one thought we would have the record we did. I'm just happy to be on this team."
"Ryan Swenson, Cameron Dimaio, Brad Kienzle, who was actually out with a concussion the past couple of games, and Lorenzo Robinson were our four key seniors," Smith said, "but we have plenty of people to fill those spots, and a lot of them are sophomores and juniors."
Smith said making it to the second round of the state playoffs should fuel some of the key returning players in the offseason.
"When we walked off the field, all the kids said 'thanks coach' and 'glad to be part of the team,' and Ethan said thanks, looked at me and said, 'we have one more year, don't we?' I said, 'yup,'" Smith said. "In my mind, not that he's going to do it right this minute, but he and some of the good kids are going to start training for next season not next March, they're going to start training tomorrow."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays