BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – They’ve done it in the morning. They’ve done it in the afternoon. They’ve done it at night.
They’ve done it when it’s cold. They’ve done it when it’s hot.
They’ve done it at home. They’ve done it on the road. They’ve done it at neutral sites.
They’ve done it in dominating fashion. They’ve done it dramatically.
But most importantly, the Palmyra boys’ lacrosse team has simply done it.
On a steamy Thursday night at Lebanon Valley College’s Arnold Field, during the quarterfinals of the District Three Class AA playoffs, the Cougars did it again, in the form of a decisive 14-3 victory over Cocalico. Looking for each other on offense and pressuring the ball on defense, Palmyra ripped off six unanswered goals, in a 12:41 span from early in the opening quarter to the middle of the second, to assume a 7-1 lead the Eagles would never challenge.
Senior Kyle Nolen paced the Palmyra attack with five goals and two assists, while teammate Grant Haus contributed a hat trick and a couple of assists. Petey Robertson netted a pair of goals for the Cougars, as did Ethan Gain, and Alec Richard added a couple of assists.
The outcome was just another triumph in what has turned out to be a magical season for Palmyra, the best in school history and the best in the abbreviated history of boys’ lacrosse in Lebanon County.
With the win, the top-seeded Cougars moved to 20-1 overall and into Tuesday’s District Three semifinal, against Eastern York, a 12-10 winner over Trinity, at a site and time to be determined. It also qualified Palmyra for the upcoming PIAA postseason.
The loss dropped eighth-seeded Cocalico to 12-8 overall.
“That was one of our goals – we wanted to win districts,” said Palmyra head coach Dave Ondrusek. “We’re working towards that goal. Every game, we have a goal. At the beginning of the season, the goal was to get into the playoffs because we made it last year. But once we got in, the goal was to win it.
“The key to our success is teamwork,” continued Ondrusek. “These guys have done something incredible. There’s do cliques, there’s no division. They’re all together. It’s been one of the most pleasurable experiences, working with these guys.”
“Last year, we broke the school record for wins in a season,” said Nolen. “We all had in our minds to be 18-0. We wanted to make it to districts, do our best and give it our all. We endured 6 a.m. practices and did a lot of running. We worked very hard to be here. We didn’t have an easy road.”
The Cougars’ decisive six-goal burst included three in a span of 49 seconds late in the first stanza. Nolen collaborated with Richard for their second of the evening, Nate Hawkins scored seven seconds after a draw and Gain used a good low drive to convert some extended possession into a 5-1 advantage.
Haus netted Palmyra’s next two goals, off assists from first Robertson and then Nolan. The flurry had started with 7:05 remaining in the first half, when Haus’ well-placed shot from the left wing snapped a one-all tie.
“We did well,” said Ondrusek. “We came out and executed our game plan. The things we were doing well were we were moving the ball, and quick passes were creating opportunities.We had a good performance. Hopefully we can keep it up.
“But in the second half, we got sloppy,” added Ondrusek. “We knew what the score was and we lost focus. Cocalico was pressing us the whole time. They went hard until the end.”
“I felt like we had good chemistry,” said Nolen. “We came out with a lot of excitement. We fought for every ground ball. It went well today.”
The Cougars got two goals from Nolen in the final 2:51 of the first half to take a 9-2 cushion to the break.
Nolen came out from behind the net unmarked and fired a low shot that beat Cocalico goalie Ben Puodziunas. Then 54 seconds later, he converted a rebound to push Palmyra’s lead to seven goals.
In the first half, Palmyra out shot the Eagles 35-12.
“It does change from some aspects,” said Ondrusek of playing with the lead. “You can’t let the other team back in it. Does the game plan change? We made some adjustments from what we saw. Lacrosse is a momentum game, even if you get up big.
“You can’t get comfortable or complacent,” Ondrusek continued. “The emphasis we put on it is that you’ve got to play all 48 minutes. When you let up, that’s when momentum changes.”
“I’m an attack man,” said Nolen. “I’m usually the guy in the middle. I’m scrappy. I’m the hard-nosed guy. But we all work evenly. We have a great team here. Not one player is exceptional. We have a lot of good players.”
Cocalico notched the first goal of the second half, 1:33 in. But thanks to the Cougars’ swarming defense and the play of net-minder Anthony Bressi, who was credited with five saves, the Eagles were shut out the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Robertson was picking up his pair, one from the doorstep and the other on a hard wrister from the right wing. Caleb Hawkins was converting a high-low dump in from Haus, Nolen was tallying his fifth 46 seconds into the final quarter and Gain was scoring off a nice set-up by Robertson.
“There were a lot of significant things here,” said Ondrusek. “This was our second district win ever. This was the first time we were ever ranked first (in District Three). We have one blemish on our record. They’re (his players) resilient. They’re coach-able. And they work together.”
“You have the mindset, ‘If you lose, you’re done,'” said Nolen. “It pushes us. We want to be the champions in the district. We’re pretty excited to be here.”
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2017 Palmyra Boys’ Lacrosse Results
|4:15 PM||W 17-4|
|4:15 PM||W 19-1|
|4:15 PM||W 19-5|
|6:15 PM||W 15-8|
|4:15 PM||W 14-7|
|4:15 PM||W 19-3|
|4:30 PM||W 19-7|
|4:00 PM||W 11-6|
|7:00 PM||W 17-8|
|4:15 PM||W 19-0|
|4:15 PM||W 14-6|
|4:15 PM||W 8-7|
|4:15 PM||W 19-7|
|6:00 PM||W 12-4|
|4:00 PM||W 19-3|
|6:45 PM||W 17-3|
|7:00 PM||W 8-7|
|7:00 PM||W 19-5|
PIAA District Three
Class AA Power Rankings
|6||Lancaster Country Day School||13-||5-||0||0.582963|