May 18th, 2011
Tigers Down Collegiate In Semifinal Thriller
St. Xavier lacrosse team to battle Trinity for state championship
Having already scored three goals during Wednesday's Kentucky Division I High School State Lacrosse Tournament semifinal game against Louisville Collegiate, St. Xavier junior Seth Gray was in the crosshairs of every Titan defender on the field as the Tigers attacker took possession of the ball with just over a minute to go and the score tied.
And that's just what St. X was hoping for.
Taking advantage of the extra attention from Collegiate, an unselfish Gray found sophomore Zayne Smith for a tie-breaking goal with 1:01 remaining and the Tigers held on to defeat Collegiate in a thrilling semifinal victory at St. Xavier's Brother Thomas More Stadium.
It was the second victory for St. X over the Titans in less than a week and advances the Tigers to the state championship game and a showdown with rival and nationally-ranked Trinity High School on Friday night.
"Seth's a real good finisher. He's not he fastest guy in the world, but he catches everything you throw to him and can hit the goal from anywhere," said St. Xavier Head Coach Scott Howe. "If we get the ball to his stick, there's a pretty good chance it's going in the goal, so he draws some attention. And when he gets open, everybody runs to him and in turn frees up somebody else. And that's what we got there at the end."
Gray, who scored the game's first goal with 4:12 to go in the first quarter, tied the game at 2-2 with his second goal just before halftime and put his squad ahead 5-2 with the hat trick goal at the 3:48 mark in the third quarter.
But it was the assist on the game-winning goal that turned out to be his biggest contribution of the night, as St. X avoided a fourth-quarter collapse against a Collegiate team that stormed back and tied the game with 3:02 to go in the game.
"Collegiate's a good and well-coached team....and they never give up," said Howe. "In the second half our goalie's trying to clear, and instead of getting a fast break and us maybe going up 6-2, we hand it right to their guy and he sticks it back in the goal and all of a sudden (Collegiate's) got great energy. And these are high school kids, and sometimes that happens and they think, 'Oh, no!,' and it's hard to snap them back out of that. But the good news is they stuck with it and stayed focused. We got a good turnover there at the end, got control of the ball, and ran our offense."
Wednesday's game was emotionally charged and featured intense possessions on virtually all of the exchanges during the game. After a 2-2 halftime score, St. Xavier ended up holding Collegiate to just the five goals, which was the second lowest output by the Titans this season. Collegiate's lowest score of the year came during a a 15-2 loss to Culver Academy (IN) on April 8.
"Our defense has played real well all year and our goalie has made some great stops, particularly this game," said Howe. "(Collegiate) had some good shots tonight but (Hoffman) came up big and shut it down. We pride ourselves in trying to play good defense, but they threw a lot of different offenses at us, so we had to rotate in and out of two or three different defenses."
The Tigers offense found its rhythm in the third quarter and was sparked by a quick goal out of the gate from senior Chance Smith, which came off an assist from fellow senior Hayden Holbrook and put St. Xavier ahead 3-2. Just over two minutes later, senior Bobby Schmitt charged the goal, penetrated the Collegiate defense, and found a cutting Reid Wesley for another goal, abruptly givng the Tigers its largest lead of the game at 4-2.
Smith found Gray for St. X's fourth unanswered goal with 3:48 remaining in the third quarter and put the Tigers in great shape against a reeling Titans team.
Collegiate did make things interesting in the final period, as Madison Kommor scored back-to-back goals nearly a minute apart to cut St. Xavier's lead to 5-4. Patrick Rhea then squared the game at 5-5 when he caught St. X goalie Eric Hoffman off guard in the crease.
Harris Levine and Rodes Robinson were responsible for Collegiate's other two goals during the game.
St. Xavier, which lost to Trinity 8-6 on May 5 during regular season action, will get another crack at its cross-town rival on Friday night. This time, however, a lot more is on the line for the winner.
"We were hoping we'd get another shot at them," said Howe. "We were disappointed with our performance against them during (Kentucky) Derby Week. We didn't run our offense as good as we should. We didn't shoot as well as we neeed to. There were just some things that we didn't do that we hope we've got fixed. We're looking forward to getting another shot at them."
The St. X-Trinity lacrosse state championship game will be played on Friday at 8pm at Trinity's Marshall Stadium. LouisvilleCatholicSports.com will have full coverage of the game.
For a photo gallery of St. Xavier vs. Collegiate, visit www.facebook.com/louisvillecatholicsports