Tuesday’s battle between Laxpower’s No. 2 and No. 3 boys’ lacrosse teams in the state was as even as it could get.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Florida’s No. 3-ranked team, edged Barron Collier, 9-8, in an overtime thriller in the third-round play-in game at Cougars Stadium to earn a trip to the state semifinals.
“We were nervous on this hour-and-a-half ride coming over,” St. Thomas Aquinas coach Terry Crowley said. “They came over here before and kicked our butts, and rightfully so. I’m glad to be leaving Barron Collier [with a victory.]”
Barron Collier trailed 8-6 with three minutes remaining after a St. Thomas goal by Reven Koss.
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Jack Gray scored for the Cougars with 1:18 remaining to make the final minute interesting, and a Jack Telitz laser sent the game into overtime.
However, St. Thomas Aquinas’ R.J. Curtin scored the game-winner with less than two minutes remaining in overtime.
“It’s the biggest shot I ever hit in my life by far,” Curtin said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. We’ve never actually had the whole team blow out of the sideline like that. We’ve probably got to work on that one; I almost had my knees blown out.”
The Cougars struck first in the back-and-forth battle off of an early first-quarter Drew Goodrich rocket.
The Raiders answered with a first-quarter goal from Alex Tuminello and an early-second quarter tally from Alec Cumella to take a 2-1 lead.
Goodrich quickly responded to knot the game up at two, and Michael O’Dea followed with his first of the day to give the Cougars a one-goal lead.
Drama struck in the third quarter when Cougars, down 5-4, took advantage of a Raiders’ miscue. St. Thomas Aquinas’ goalkeeper cleared the ball out of bounds, and Barron Collier was awarded possession. The officials began the following play before the Raiders goalie made it back to the net, and Cougars senior midfielder Matt Hobden scored on the empty net.
The referees waived off Hobden’s goal after discussing the play.
The Cougars regrouped and rapidly got back on the attack. Goodrich took advantage of the mayhem and scored his fourth goal of the night to tie St. Thomas Aquinas at five.
The Barron Collier momentum didn’t last long as Curtin reclaimed the lead for the Raiders.
St. Thomas Aquinas hung tough, but ultimately Barron Collier got the better of them down the stretch.
The Raiders trailed by only one goal after one half of play, but Naples-Barron Collier outscored St. Thomas Aquinas by three goals in the final half to come away with the 12-9 victory on Tuesday night.
With the victory in the third-round play-in game, Barron Collier (18-5) advances to the state semifinals for the first time in school history. The Cougars play Vero Beach on Friday at IMG Academy in the state’s final four.
“I think my girls played a hell of a game. They gave it there all. They worked hard,” St. Thomas Aquinas coach Sarah Paul-Hus said. “Unfortunate circumstances we haven’t played them this season, but I think we will get a win next year without a doubt in this round. It will be a game to watch.”
Cougar’s leading scorer Olivia Ferrucci led the way with seven goals. The junior All-American has 21 goals in the team’s three play-in games.
“As a coach it means a lot to me. For the girls it is the world,” first-year head coach Ferrucci said. “They set the goal at the beginning of the year to make it to states and they achieved their goal. We are just so happy for them. They’ve all worked very hard.”
Barron Collier made things happen in the early stages of the first half. In the first five minutes, Cougars leading scorer Ferrucci rattled off two quick goals.
However, St. Thomas Aquinas (15-5) battled back with four straight scores of their own. Freshman Ali Beekhuizen buried two straight to put the Raiders ahead by two.
Ferrucci recorded her third goal on a side shot falling down to the turf. She briefly left the field after taking a stick to the cheek.
“I just kept thinking about my teammates and about how hard we’ve worked in every practice,” Ferrucci said. “We’re all out here together, bumping and battling for every ground ball. Thinking about them really helped me get through.”
The Raiders responded with a follow-up goal. Beekhuizen added her third goal to put St. Thomas Aquinas ahead 5-3.
The momentum seemed to be on the Raiders side until the Olivia Ferrucci-Claudia Lenart connection came alive.
After combining for 23 goals in the first two play-in games, Lenart buried two goals late in the half, both coming on passes from Ferrucci. Ferrucci put the Cougars ahead 6-5 with just over a minute left in the half.
“Claudia and I have been working together since I was in the seventh grade,” Ferrucci on connection with Lenart. “Our connection all season has been really good, but that couldn’t happen without other girls coming through. It’s really a whole team effort.”
In the very first minute of the second half, Lenart scored on a pass out in front from her pal Ferrucci. The goal was Lenart’s third giving her a hat trick for the second consecutive game.
“It’s everything. We have a senior on this team that played soccer all four years and this is her first year of playing lacrosse,” Ferrucci said. “We told her we would get her a district championship and to the final four. I’m just so happy that we did.”
Kaitlyn Dooley and Kacie Frost scored goals in the second half for Barron Collier, while Beekhuizen and Mujwit each scored two goals in the final half.
“The girls have worked their butts off. We have some young talent and strong leaders,” Paul-Hus said. “I feel like next year we’re going to come out strong.”
•District 11 semifinal: South Broward d. Flanagan 25-11, 25-17, 25-9:
Adam Roberti 34 assists, 4 kills, 2 blocks, 10 points. Steven Garay 13 kills, 24 digs, 2 blocks. SB 15-6.
•District 9 semifinal: Cardinal Gibbons d. Pine Crest 25-20, 26-24, 27-29, 25-22:
Corry Short 33 kills, 16 digs, 7 points, 3 blocks. Jake Leventhal 51 assists, 2 kills, 8 digs, 2 aces, 4 points, 3 blocks.
•District 9 semifinal: St. Thomas Aquinas d. Western 25-12, 25-11, 25-22:
Stefano Rivera 34 assists, 2 kills, block, 6 points, ace. Kyle Schroeder 10 kills, 2 blocks. Sean Davis 9 kills, 2 digs, 5 points, 2 aces. STA 19-3.
•District 8 semifinal: Monarch d. Coral Glades 23-25, 25-15, 25-15, 25-17:
Bruno Teixeira 20 kills, 12 digs, 9 points, 2 aces. Sean Drexl 35 assists, 7 digs, 8 points, 2 aces. Tyler Johnson 20 points, 7 aces, 7 digs, 5 kills. MON 16-6.
•District 31 final: Miramar 32, Hollywood Hills 20.
Team Miami won the Florida High School Coaches Tennis Association championship in Winter Park. Team Miami consisted of seniors: Olivia Thaler, Baker Newman, Chase Perez-Blanco (Gulliver); Alex Rothman, Danna Gandelman (Krop); and Claudia Mackenzie (Ransom).