Kevin Hack of St. Francis, left, hugs Max Johntson after Johnston scored in a D-II regional semifinal. Hack scored three goals and Johnston two. THE BLADE/LORI KING
St. Francis scored six goals during the final 4½ minutes of the first quarter to take control en route to a 12-2 home win against Rocky River in a Division II lacrosse regional semifinal on Tuesday.
The flurry of goals, from six different players, followed a stretch in which St. Francis (16-5) missed the mark on its first eight shots.
“Lots of pipes today, seven of them,” St. Francis coach Chris Pavain said. “We came out all fired up, and it took us until four minutes left in the quarter to score. We just started hitting the goals on the net, which we had missed prior to that.”
The speed and athleticism of St. Francis played a large role in the game, which saw St. Francis convert 26 of 28 clears. That allowed it to set up an offense that produced 49 shots, 26 of which went on goal.
In fact, St. Francis produced 19 shots, with 14 on goal, in the first quarter alone. It was the first time in four contests that Rocky River (12-8) had given up double digit shots in an entire game.
“We practice clears and rides all day long,” Pavain said. “We run them for 40 minutes of practice. We’re going to be in great shape to be better than the other team, and you have to be able to possess the ball.”
Overall, Kevin Hack produced three goals and two assists for St. Francis, which also got two goals apiece from Nick Provenza, Trevor Doren, and Max Johnston. Provenza and Johnston also led the team with three assists apiece.
With his team up 6-0 at halftime, Hack took a pass from Provenza for a goal just nine seconds into the second half. Johnston added another one 49 seconds later before Rocky River’s Ian Hermann got his team on the board with 9 minutes, 15 seconds left in the quarter.
Hermann’s goal came within a five-minute span in which Rocky River produced seven shots and drew a slashing penalty on St. Francis. Behind 18 total saves from goalkeeper Josh Snyder, including four during that stretch alone, St. Francis and its defense maintained control. During the next two minutes, St. Francis picked up its second man up goal, and Hack finished his hat trick.
“Our mindset was to just stay focused and positive and our entire team did that,” St. Francis senior Warren Natyshak said. “Our defense helped out, and once our offense popped in one or two, we just kept rolling.”
St. Francis, which has won nine straight by a 126-34 margin, will face Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (18-2) in the regional final this weekend. The exact day and time is still being worked out between the schools, and Pavain said it will be the first matchup between the teams.
Cuyahoga Valley defeated Bowling Green 18-4 in the other semifinal.
“If our defense plays like it did tonight and our offense keeps going, I think we have a really good shot at going a long way,” Natyshak said.
Nick Provenza of St. Francis scores on a backhand against Rocky River goalie Chris Welch during a D-II regional semifinal. Provenza finished with two goals and three assists. THE BLADE/LORI KING