By Ryan Kaczmarski
It took three days, four quarters, an extra 1:23 in overtime and a relentless attack, but the Rocky River varsity boys lacrosse team finally beat St. Francis DeSales (Toledo) Monday night at Rocky River High School, 9-8, to make its third straight trip to the Division II state semifinals.
After a furious series of blocked shots, Pirates senior Mason Wilhelmy got one past St. Francis junior goalkeeper Nick Wagner, with 2:37 left in the first overtime.
“I saw a shot, and I knew I had to take it,” Wilhelmy said. “(Wagner) played a great game – that goalie is phenomenal.”
“We expected nothing less than what we saw tonight between these two teams,” Rocky River head coach Steve Anderson said. “(Wilhelmy) got himself in good position to go to the goal, he went with authority and placed a good shot, which is what he needed to do against this goalie.”
Wagner stopped a flurry of Pirates shots at the end of regulation, and Rocky River knew it needed to keep the pressure up in the extra frame.
“(The huddle before the overtime) was real intense,” Wilhelmy explained. “We knew our job, and we knew we had to get it done.
“(Scoring the game winner) feels great. I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”
Wilhelmy’s game winner came on a curl around St. Francis’ goal, right after Wagner saved two point-blank Rocky River shots.
“A shot on the run is difficult to save,” Anderson said. “In tight, (Wagner) got big and he made good saves.”
Rocky River senior attacker Tommy Garibaldi put the Pirates on the score board with 9:23 left in the first quarter, then senior captain Eric Sperli followed that up with his first goal, to make it 2-0 with 6:46 left in the first. The Knights battled back to tie the game with 4:15 remaining, before Wilhelmy and Brock Riemenschneider put the Pirates up 4-2 going into the second quarter.
After the first intermission, Bobby Perez found the back of the net (assisted by Sperli) to make it a 5-2 Pirates lead, then the Knights scored three straight to tie the game 5-5 going into halftime. The Pirates came out of the half a little stale and St. Francis took a 7-5 third-quarter lead before Sperli scored his second goal (assisted by Perez), followed by an Alex Theiling goal (assisted by Sperli) to tie the game 7-7 with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter.
St. Francis scored in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and kept the Pirates offense at bay until Sperli secured his hat trick with 4:08 left in regulation, proving to be the score that sent the game into overtime.
“I think the team – all season, and in seasons past – never gives up,” Anderson stated. “They give everything they have, and that is all you can ask for.”
The Pirates (14-2) move on to play University School tonight at Medina High School for the Division II state semifinals.
“Our next game is going to be very difficult, as it always is against (University School),” Anderson said. “They are a very well-coached team and they’ll be prepared. Basically, we hope to be prepared as well.”
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.