BY JEFF FALK
HUMMESLTOWN – Not only does it want to win them all, the Palmyra boys’ lacrosse team wants to win it all. But in order to do so, the Cougars had to win the first one, first.
On a steamy Tuesday evening on the turf at Lower Dauphin Middle School, Palmyra notched an historic victory in the opening round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs, besting Hampton 7-5. The Cougars never trailed and enjoyed a pair of three-goal leads, but were never quite able to put the Talbots totally away.
Five different Cougars found the back of the net, including senior Alec Richard and sophomore Bryson Russell, who netted a pair of goals apiece.
Not only was the triumph the first PIAA win in program history for the Cougars, it was also the initial state victory for any Lebanon County boys’ lacrosse team ever. Palmyra was coming off a tough 11-10 setback at the hands of Trinity, in the District Three Class AA championship game six days ago.
But the triumph lifted Palmyra, the reigning Mid-Penn Conference champions, to 22-2 on the spring. Up next for the Cougars are the state quarterfinals, on Saturday, against a team and at a site to be determine.
The loss ended District Seven runner-up Hampton High’s season.
“It’s always been our goal to win the league, win districts and win states,” said Palmyra head coach Dave Ondrusek. “We’ve got one out of two, and now we’re working on the third one.
“Our goal is to win the state championship,” continued Ondrusek. “We believe we’re good enough to do it. We just need to fine tune things. We had turnovers tonight that cost us.”
“Every game is pretty important,” said Richard. “You want to keep going. You don’t want to stop.”
After having its lead sliced to 5-4 late in the third quarter, Palmyra responded with a couple of unanswered goals in the fourth period to all but settle the issue. Both came on fastbreak rushes.
A mere 40 seconds into the final stanza, Richard accepted a feed on the left post of the Hampton net and beat Talbot goalie Bob Vonshay from in-close. Then five minutes later, Russell got behind the Talbot defense for the score that made it 7-4.
“The performance was very good,” said Ondrusek. “I don’t want to understate it, but we have other things to accomplish. I’m very satisfied with our victory.
“You have to have the mindset of a goalie,” Ondrusek continued. “You’ve got to forget about it (the district final loss) and prepare for the next one. This group knows we can play better.”
“After the loss, we kind of woke up again,” said Richard. “It opened our eyes again. We have to work hard. No game is going to be given to us.”
The Cougars used two goals eight seconds apart late in the first half to open their first three-goal margin.
Russell was ‘Johnny on the spot’ when he cleaned up a Grant Haus rebound in the goal mouth, with 2:55 remaining in the second period. Richard made it 4-1, as he beat Vonshay with a low shot, off a feed from Kyle Wasilewski.
With 2:35 left in the third period, it was Cougar Caleb Hawkins who stemmed an on-rushing Hampton tide, with a goal that made it 5-3.
“We have to be more effective offensively from inside,” said Ondrusek. “These guys (the Talbots) tried to make us run and play from the outside. We tried to put in a little more deliberate run with our attack. I’m assuming they scouted us. We wanted to show them something different. But they knew who to cover.
“We distribute the ball well,” said Ondrusek. “There’s no single person out there we depend on. We depend on each other.”
“They had great hustle,” said Richard of the Talbots. “Coming up with ground balls was 50-50. They wanted it as much as we did. We just executed a little bit better.”
Palmyra opened the scoring 6:44 in on a goal from Jake Herman. Off an assist by Hawkins, Herman converted a 12-yard shot from straight away.
Then after Hampton tied it at one, the Cougars regained their edge on a Wasilewski tally, 1:08 later. The play was made by Herman, and all that was left for Wasilewski to do was deposit the ball into the net.
“If there’s one disappointing thing i’s that we left them hang around,” said Ondrusek. “We got up on them and we let them hang around. That’s not typical of us.”
“We didn’t know anything about them (the Talbots) until the bus ride here,” said Richard. “And then we didn’t know much. It’s (scouting report) not going to win or lose you the game. But you try to identify their key players.”
Palmyra out shot Hampton High by an overwhelming margin, 28-10. Defensively, the Cougars were sparked by steals, Talbot turnovers and the play of keeper Clay Mangin.
“Our whole defense had a very strong day,” said Ondrusek. “You limit the second-place team from another distirct to five goals, it speaks volumes. Our goal was to limit them to six goals.”
“I thought we kind of started a little slow,” said Richard. “We were just trying to figure things out. They (the Talbots) definitely deserve some credit. They shut down some of the things we wanted to do.”
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2018 Palmyra Boys’ Lacrosse Results
|4:15 PM||W 13-5|
|4:15 PM||W 17-3|
|4:15 PM||W 16-5|
|4:15 PM||W 14-4|
|5:45 PM||W 17-3|
|6:45 PM||W 19-3|
|4:15 PM||W 15-0|
|4:15 PM||W 13-5|
|10:00 AM||W 17-1|
|4:15 PM||W 19-1|
|7:30 PM||W 18-0|
|4:15 PM||W 12-2|
|7:00 PM||L 3-11|
|7:00 PM||W 10-2|
|10:00 AM||W 9-4|
|4:15 PM||W 11-2|
|4:15 PM||W 18-3|
|4:15 PM||W 8-7|
|8:00 PM||W 7-6|
|7:00 PM||W 16-3|
|7:00 PM||W 15-1|
|5:00 PM||W 17-5|
|5:00 PM||L 10-11|
|6:00 PM||W 7-5|