Saturday night lightning brought the Tuesday night thunder down on the Tatnall Hornets. The Cape lacrosse team snapped like wide suspenders on a 4X hillbilly, blitzing its nemeses for 13 first-half goals, taking the drama out of what has been a two-year tragedy for the Vikings.
“The kids deserve this,” said coach Mark D’Ambrogi after Cape won the state championship 19-9 with a total team effort from end line to end line. “I think that we profited from the disappointment of our past. Lost to Tatnall two straight years in the state tournament and this year in the regular season, and almost being bounced out of the tournament by Caesar Rodney in this year’s semifinals had us ready. What you saw in the first half tonight you cannot coach. It was all the kids. It was their focus and their energy.”
Joe Vavala had the clear focus of a high-octane adrenaline rush, scoring five goals while finding open shooters and picking up ground balls.
“I played terribly against Caesar Rodney and I just wanted to make up for it tonight,” Vavala said after the game. “Everybody knows our attack is going to score, but [Tatnall] weren’t expecting me to hurt them.”
Vavala found Sean Meluney alone in a crowd in front of the Tatnall net early in the first period, and the junior midfielder did not miss as Cape drew first blood. Joey Cahill came back with a left-handed score on a roll dodge, and then it was Vavala unassisted followed by a classic Steve Welsh one-bouncer. The score was 4-0 with five minutes remaining in the first period.
“Lateef [Turrell] was incredible on face-offs and the close defense, and [Steve] Spence just all played great,” said assistant coach Steve Aubrey. “All year we’ve been waiting to see this team play like that. They definitely saved their best for last.”
Steve Conlon scored on an assist from Rich Benson; Benson then scored on a feed from Steve Welsh and Joey Vavala closed on the quarter scoring with 21 seconds remaining. Cape’s 7-0 cushion was the most impressive “get off” in tournament history.
Tatnall’s Rob Howard joined the Happy Days Cape party with a goal of his own, closing the score to 7-1. But Cape responded with six unanswered goals for an incredible 13-1 halftime advantage.
The Cape scores came on a Vavala put-back of a rebound, then another Vavala goal off an assist from Joey Cahill, and a Stevie Welsh one-bouncer while a man up. Vavala, Welsh and Conlon closed out the 13-goal first-half assault.
“Our best game in our last game is just the perfect way to end a career,” said Welsh. “It was just an incredible feeling.”
Not as incredible as Tatnall running off three straight goals to start the second half and closing to 14-6 after a 5-1 run. Could the greatest half in tournament history be followed by the greatest collapse?
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” said D’Ambrogi. “I knew we couldn’t maintain that intensity level. I was upset we did some stupid things, but that’s just the coach in me. I’m always that way.”
NOTES - Brandon Bonk only spent two minutes in the penalty box and actually drew a penalty on a trip.
Tyler Bryan was the Electrolux man on face-offs, scooping up balls and giving Cape possession when the game was still a game. Adam Marvin had the athletic move of the night, flipping onto the Cape victory celebration from about six feet into the air. Cape’s first six goals came from six different players, a depressing state for a goaltender. Vavala had five goals in the first half and six for the game.
Welsh had three first-half goals and four on the night. Other goals came from Conlon with five, and one each from Sean Meluney, Rich Benson and Joey Cahill. Alex Hense and Matt Lambros both had strong defensive games in the Cape victory.