May 17, 2009

Speeding Bullets: Gettysburg Bound for Foxboro

by Paul Krome | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Nic Bevaqcua cut easily to the crease, flashed his stick for a sure-fire one-timer and then dropped the would-be assist. As the ball rolled out of bounds to the roaring delight of the Gettysburg bench and a couple hundred orange- and blue-clad supporters, the Stevenson senior could only stop in his tracks, look to the overcast sky, rest his crosse on his helmet and listen to some words of consolation from Bullet netminder Zach Furshman -- who may have stoned the midfielder anyway, the kind of day he was having.

Even with 15 seconds left, in the midst of an extra-man opportunity and with the outcome long since decided, the Mustangs couldn't make the basic plays. So ended their improbable season of firsts and unlikely surge to the USILA's top ranking, replaced by a team once thought dead and now a step away from lacrosse's ultimate resurrection.

Furshman made a season-high 15 saves, and with five points from junior Kyle McGrath, Gettysburg dispatched host Stevenson, 12-7, and punched its ticket to the NCAA Division III championship game Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. The Bullets improved to 16-3 overall and equaled a school record with their 14th straight win. They'll try to avenge a loss for the third time this season when they meet Cortland, a 16-8 winner over Middlebury in the other semifinal and a 14-8 victor over Gettsyburg earlier this season, in a noon faceoff at Gillette Stadium.

"Today I thought we played so much better defense. That was the key," said 22-year Bullet head coach Hank Janczyk, who will get a third opportunity since 2001 to capture his program's first NCAA championship. "We were able to do a great job on defense and play pretty balanced on offense. The last time [against Stevenson], we couldn't keep the ball in our stick very long."

Indeed, after holding the Mustangs to their second-worst output this season, you might have thought Gettysburg defensemen Tim Kurpis, John Odierna and Yanni Peary took their last meeting with Stevenson, a 16-6 Mustang beatdown on March 4 in which Jimmy Dailey and Richie Ford scored four goals apiece, personally. They made amends by resorting to film study, not emotional bravado.

"We've been watching a lot of tape recently. We matched up applicably. We matched up size-wise and put our strengths against their strengths. We felt pretty good that we knew what they were going to do, and we were able to counter their offense," Peary said.

Dailey, whose right shoulder has been in various stages of health all season, and Ford were held to just one total goal by Peary and Odierna, respectively. Mustang nerves and sound defense by the Bullets contributed to seemingly foolish turnovers by Stevenson on many possessions and rather pedestrian shot attempts on others. Late in the second quarter with his team down 4-3, Dailey forced a shot that was blocked by defensemen. Gettysburg's Alex White got a shot off on the ensuing fast break, and while he didn't score, the Bullets were eventually able to find Danno Lynch, a southpaw who beat midfielder Jake Stocksdale to put Gettysburg up 5-3.

"We never got into a rhythm," said Ford. "We didn't move the ball as well as we could have and just never got things going."

"Zach Furshman played tremendously," added Dailey.

Ahead 6-3 at the break, Furshman squelched any hopes of a comeback with seven saves in the third quarter. He stopped a non-descript attempt by his brother, Greg, with two minutes left in the period to gain possession for the Bullets, who ultimately restored their three-goal cushion less than a minute later when Lynch netted this third marker of the game.

Greg Furshman's 11-of-17 performance on faceoffs was a big boost the Stevenson's win in the regular season. While he won nine of 12 today, too many of those wins ended in turnovers, of which the Mustangs committed 22.

McGrath, meanwhile, was a difference-maker, according to Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene. His three goals gave him 10 in the NCAA tournament, most by a Bullet in the playoffs since 2002 -- also the last year Gettysburg advanced to the national championship game.

"Kyle seems to be the end-of-the-year player for us. This tournament, he's picked up his game, just like he did last year," said Janczyk.

McGrath, held scoreless in the teams' March encounter, was active from the start, scoring the first goal of the game 53 seconds into it and then putting the Mustangs up for good, 4-3, with the first goal of the second quarter. Just over a minute into the final quarter, teammate Zach Pucci slipped very quietly past Stevenson defensemen Mike Gustowarow and Austin Hale and onto the crease.

McGrath ignored his defenseman and threaded a needle to Pucci, who pushed the ball past goalie Geoff Hebert in a hockey-like redirect for a 10-6 advantage that essentially sealed the deal.

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