This year’s Beltway Bash meant something different to everybody. For seniors like Ryan Francisco, Chris Deck, and of course, Brian Mahoney, it meant one last chance to go down to College Park Maryland for a great tournament. For veteran players from last year’s season, this was a big opportunity to show their improvements.
For freshman and other new players, this tournament was their first ride in a challenging yet enjoyable adventure; potentially foreshadowing those to come. This was a tournament where the value of a big victory would be overshadowed by the character and class that this year’s team played with. It was a matter of sportsmanship, a matter of respecting each other, and a matter of resolve once the dust cleared.
The Profs looked through that dust after their second trip to The Beltway Bash last weekend. What they saw was a meager, unfortunate 1-2 record for the tournament. The results were not what they wanted, but through the course of those two days, the Profs found much more to celebrate than lacrosse games.
The team set out on Friday, April 7 to see The University Maryland once again. The last time they headed down to the Bash, they came home with a chip in their shoulders after losing to West Chester University in the final round. The last time the team had been in Maryland though, they brought home the Fall Brawl Championship trophy to leave at the Rowan Rec Center. That being said, the Profs were pumped to bring that same intensity to the Bash.
The three hour drive was a tiresome journey, but the team knew exactly what needed to get done when they pulled into the Days Inn at College Park. The beds and the rugs of the hotel were aesthetically-pleasing, but for these guys, a turf-field being lit by a few floodlights was the kind of scenery that they wished for. The plan was to travel over to the J. Logan & Louise Schultz Football Practice Complex to start their tournament run with a night-time game against Catholic University of America. The weather was relatively mild, with the worst component being a strong and nippy wind. No matter what the forces of nature had to dish out, the Profs kept in-character by playing through it.
This game was like a force of nature, anyway. Catholic and Rowan gave each other a ton and a half of resistance throughout this game, with Catholic scoring on the Profs early on during the first quarter. Mahoney saw a more-cohesive unit going against Catholic, even as spirits were very tense. Derek Hofmann was out due to injury, but this gave freshman, Dominic Carlucci some time in-goal during the second half. Mahoney and Carlucci both had to stand strong as Catholic scored off of shots such as one from a right-armed jump. Carlucci fared well in his half, owing it to the ability to deflect a couple of 20-yard shots and make good on clears, one of which involved Carlucci charging toward midfield. Carlucci also benefitted from having his brave pool of middies to aid him when shots were in the iffy zones, like those flung in from center. Defensively, wing poles certainly had to show some muscle, but defensive-middies also played a crucial role in making sure shots weren’t up-close-and-personal.
“I was confident that going into this tournament, I was going to perform at the level of competition. We had tough games and a few hard losses, but it taught not only myself, but the team that we can accomplish more than we thought,” Carlucci said.
While Catholic kept leveling the score and tying with the Profs, it wasn’t as if they were applying the most pressure in this game. The Profs had goals from the hands of Billy Van Dyke and Matt Gorzynski to thank for that. Van Dyke scored off of a quick bounce shot, while Gorzynski golfed a wicked top-left corner goal. Also in the mix was a goal from Mike Soravilla, who shined as he used his speed and intelligence to a few get shots through. Scoring wasn’t big, as the Profs only scored three goals, but beings that Catholic also only scored three goals. So, obviously, the Profs found themselves in a very rare situation, overtime. Although Rowan played notably well in overtime, Catholic finished the game with goal on Carlucci to make the final score 3-4. The Profs knew what this loss would mean for the rest of the tournament, beings that they only had two other games left. If they lost either of those two games, it’d all be over. The Profs left the field with the sting, trying to not let it hold them back before they tried to enjoy the rest of their night. Of course, they knew that it wouldn’t be too long after they wake up that they’d be facing Stevenson University next.
After a night of recuperating, the team woke up to a bright day and new chance to make this tournament work out for them. Stevenson University wasn’t too much of a challenge the last time the team faced them at the Lax for Donnie Tournament last month. Now, two Saturdays later, the Profs got to see where they stand against the Mustangs once again. Last time, Stevenson kept the Profs running throughout the game, with a midfield with healthy stamina. They retained this ability but added a little extra scrappiness to their formula; playing with what seemed to be a sizeable chip on their shoulders. Strong emotions did not deter the Profs’ ability to dump 11 goals on their goalies though.
Overall, the Profs’ success came from outworking the Mustangs. Stevenson appeared sluggish and lethargic for portions of the game, giving Rowan the ability to capitalize on this. Offense had no real trouble getting in shots from 5-10 yards away. Van Dyke used his muscle-power to plow down through midfield, with one assist that resulted in a hammering shot from John Slover. Another spoke in the face-off rotation, Will Spreen also put some goals in, despite receiving a hard whack to his upper-arm from one of Stevenson’s middies. Injuries and Stevenson playing rough couldn’t stop the way Van Dyke, Slover, and Spreen dominated at keeping possession for the Profs.
Spreen, in particular, gained some valuable experience, working alongside these two powerhouses. Spreen said he’s had quite a few “battles” with Slover during practice.
“I definitely felt that facing off was a big part of the tournament because all teams were really close, skill-wise. So, it came down to whoever had more possession. When I did face-off, everyone was pretty good so it was difficult to get a clean clamp,” Spreen said. “I have full faith in Van Dyke and Slover to take face-offs when I can’t, they’re both very consistent and have very quick hands.”
Spreen calls Van Dyke “one of the best face-off guys I’ve ever played with,” but Van Dyke was grateful to be in a cohesive squad himself.
“I loved having Slover facing off with me, it gives me breaks and many times he heats up and wins a bunch in a row,” Van Dyke said. “Which really gives us all the help we need we need to give us possessions and more chances to score. If we don’t have players like that we don’t perform well as a team.”
Slover could back up the credit he was given, as could Donovan Moyer. Moyer scored once off of an assist from Mike Squiccarini and another time with a close-range shot to bottom-left. Squicciarini showed consistency with ball-movement at midifield. Sophomore Mo Aneizi, had some graceful moments at midfield, working well with Spreen for top-left offense late in the game. Aneizi said that the tournament overall was a “positive experience.”
“I had been hearing a lot about this tournament from some of the guys who have gone before and seeing how excited they were for it for it definitely got me excited too,” Aniezi said.
Freshman middie Kyle Schwab joined in on the fun as well, scoring off of a speedy groundball to bottom-left. Schwab also enjoyed his time at the tournament, despite saying that he “didn’t know what to expect” going down to Maryland.
“As a freshman, I heard a lot of stories about Beltway Bash,” Schwab said. “We were all pumped up to play and we all really wanted to take home yet another trophy.”
The Profs carried home an 11-0 win over the Mustangs that afternoon. To which celebrations were definitely to be had, but the Profs were looking toward their 6:30 game as well. West Chester was waiting for them, along with their last chance to have a decent shot at the tournament. At the moment though, a small tailgate and a bunch of happy parents were waiting for them too. Some of the team even got to make a trip over to Maryland Stadium for the DI Maryland vs. Penn State game, where Maryland defeated Penn State 15-11. Others got to try the some of the many restaurants in the area or simply stroll around the massive campus. Some got to peek inside the Xfinity Center to see Maryland’s Hack-a-thon taking place in the center’s basketball court.
Getting to enjoy the location was great for those wee hours before West Chester. When it was time to put themselves together, the Profs experienced some difficulties getting themselves fired up and motivated. Warm-ups were eerily quiet, as if the team was playing under water. Even Francisco seemed frustrated at the lack of energy. The Profs came into this game with a bit of a handicap, with middie Alex Chalef out of the game with an injured knee, and long-stick Steve Cupo out due to food poisoning. This would leave players like Chris Deck and Mike Conroy to carry some weight.
That fog wouldn’t stay around too long. One should never expect this team to feel sorry for itself. Despite a rather rocky start, the Profs slowly brought back the intensity to match West Chester at every point of the field. Players like Mahoney knew how West Chester plays, beings that the loss from last year’s tournament was still burning in their minds. This as well as last year’s loss to the Rams in the semifinals. These guys knew they weren’t going up against a rookie team. This didn’t mean the Profs wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to them this year though. No. Quite the opposite.
The Profs applied pressure to their wounds in this game. Although defense still had to maintain stamina just to keep up with the demands of West Chester’s offense, Rowan’s offense pushed back. Thanks to goals from the likes of Van Dyke and Ryan Gallagher, it wasn’t as difficult as last year to catch up when West Chester came into the lead. The Profs were certainly hungry, and were certainly not afraid to shoot in this game. Middies like Slover and Deck may have made some in, but West Chester’s defense got in the way. Van Dyke scored his goal after an assist from Mike Soravilla, who himself continued to use his tip-toeing speed around X and subsequently showed confidence in this game. Of course this, was a game where Rowan’s defense was heavily worked. Ian Rattigan and Bruce Barrett were both under pressure for much of the game, but maintained their ability to clear out simply and easily. Eric Johnson also kept busy, fighting for groundballs. At the D-middie line, Nick Scardilli was an asset for clears and loose balls, while Francisco stood tough when West Chester tried shooting from the 20. Francisco retained his composure and did not let taunts bother him.
Deck felt his own handicap hinder him more as the game progressed. The senior had been dealing with a pain in his leg for the duration of the tournament.
“My leg really wasn’t holding up, and was giving me a lot of problems and pain and I needed the younger guys to take more playing time, which they took and made the most of it,” Deck said.
This was a game where a few of the older guys on the team took a backseat and watched the new faces play. Even in the last moments of the game, when Dom Carlucci stood in goal, the freshman kept it so that the Rams wouldn’t be anywhere further than two goals ahead. At midfield, Squicciarini and Spreen made certain to put their best feet forward, as assists in this kind of a game were crucial. Sorovilla took on a brave level of command at attack, with moves that resulted in a few goals, which ultimately ended in West Chester having to take the Profs seriously.
The Profs lost this game, a respectable 5-7 loss and thus, were out of the tournament. The team knew very well what this loss meant.
This loss meant that this year’s team can compete. This meant that this year’s team had character. This meant that this year’s team had become more cohesive than before. This was a loss in this tournament that showed just how much ability the freshman and newcomers could really offer for the coming years.
Yes, the Profs lost the tournament, but in retrospect, what they gained may prove to be much more valuable.