TOLEDO, Ohio – The Rocky River Pirates saw their season come to an end on Tuesday, with River falling to the St. Francis de Sales Knights, 12-2, in the semifinals of Northwest Regional action in the Ohio DII Boys Lacrosse Tournament.
The Knights (16-5) displayed lightning-quick efficiency in piling up a six-goal lead in a span of just 4-and-a-half minutes late in Tuesday’s first quarter. With a highly effective transition game on both sides of the ball and a stifling defense, that lead would be more than enough the rest of the way.
The Pirates (12-8) and Knights were deadlocked, 0-0, for seven minutes in the first, but they were seven minutes full of saves by River goalkeeper Chris Welch. It wasn’t until the 4:34-mark that St. Francis got a shot past Welch, but the Knights would score again 25 seconds later and then four more times over the final two minutes-and-33 seconds of the opening stanza. The Pirates rallied with a strong second quarter, with Welch, Titus Snavely, Michael Malloy and Keller Fisher and Max Kovesdy providing standout performances to lead the way.
But the Knights then put things out of reach with a decisive third quarter in which they outscored the Maroon & White, 5-1. Senior midfielder Ian Herrmann got River on the scoreboard at 9:15 of the third, but Herrmann’s goal was bracketed by five netfinders by the home side and several more shots that caromed off the River cage.
The two sides traded lone goals in the fourth, which turned out to be the Pirates’ final 12 minutes of the season.
The loss halted a four-game win streak for Rocky River. With the win, the Knights remained on a roll: they have now won nine straight; over that stretch they have outscored foes, 126-34.
Chris Welch finished the game with 14 saves, his career best in a single game. Senior defenseman Titus Snavely was a terror on loose balls; he finished with six ground balls and one caused turnover, and many of his ground balls were collected near the Pirate crease and with the defense under duress.
Senior midfielder Keller Fisher had a big game, winning 11-of-16 faceoffs.
St. Francis went 27-of-29 on clearing attempts, while holding Rocky River to a 15-of-25 mark. For the game, the Pirates were a minus-12 in turnover margin. And the Knights won the battle on special teams: they went 2-of-2 on extra-man opportunities, while the Pirates went 0-for-3.
Where the Pirates certainly didn’t go “0-fer” was in their attitude, fortitude and commitment to one another as teammates over the final fortnight of the season. From April 22 to May 5, River lost 4-of-5. But the team rallied, rebounded and reloaded for a final stretch that started with a gutty performance in a 9-6 loss at Jackson. The Pirates then garnered a big 7-6 overtime win against Westlake on Senior Night. And they carried that two-game momentum into tying a program record for goals scored in the regular-season finale (an 18-3 victory at Walsh on May 13) and then into a pair of impressive playoff wins.
And then into a tough loss against a tough team on Tuesday night in Toledo. Both sides of sports – the ups and downs – in short order, over two whirlwind weeks in May.
A LONG-RUNNING GAME OF KNOCK-OUT: Tuesday’s game marked the second time in as many years that Toledo de Sales has knocked the Pirates out of the state tournament. The Knights downed River, 7-6, a year ago en route to a DII runner-up finish. Call it a measure of retribution – Rocky River knocked St. Francis out of the tournament in three straight years, 2011-13. … The Knights are actually Rocky River’s most frequent foe over the years. The two programs have met 17 times since the inception of River’s program in 2005. St. Francis now leads the series, 10-7.
CLOSING THE BOOKS: Rocky River’s 12 victories in 2017 are the program’s most in a single year since 2013. River finished the year with 164 goals (8.2 per game) while allowing 138 (6.9). Through 13 seasons the Pirates’ all-time record now stands at 132-88 (.600). … With a fourth-quarter assist on Tuesday, senior attackman Aaron Kosmerl finished the season with a team-leading 60 points. Kosmerl had 36 goals and 24 assists. … Scoring Tuesday’s goal in Toledo were Ian Herrmann (his career first) and Nolan Connelly (his second of the season).
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