The mob scene around J.C. Ward was equal parts jubilation and relief.
The senior midfielder’s goal 40 seconds into the second overtime had just given Gettysburg College a 9-8 victory over upstart Cabrini on Wednesday afternoon at Musselman Stadium. More importantly, it may have kept the Bullets’ season afloat.
“We needed a win,” said Ward. “We’ve been in a serious slump. We showed great poise. Some kids’ faces fell when they tied the game (to force OT). Then we picked ourselves up and got back out there. We set up the (game-winning) play. Either me or Danno (Lynch) was going to take it down the lane. It’s what we wanted. This was a momentum builder. It’s a huge step forward. We’re going to enjoy it, and then get back to work tomorrow.”
Hank Janczyk’s team has struggled this season and has been unable to string together back-to-back wins. The defense has been staunch and has yet to yield a double-digit output, but the offense has been held in check too often.
It looked like that might change in the opening quarter. After 10 scoreless minutes, Lynch exploited a seam in the Cabrini alignment and found the back of the Cavalier cage. Ward collaborated with Pat Sartory for a one-touch three minutes later, then scored himself on a wraparound and the Bullets took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter.
There was no quit in Cabrini (2-3). The Cavs sandwiched unassisted forays by Jeff Crosby around a goal by Bobby Thorp, who looped from behind the net and fired a BB past Gettysburg goalie J.T. McCook. An apparent go-ahead goal by Cabrini was disallowed because of a crease violation and the half ended with the score knotted, 3-3.
You can’t score without the cylindrical spheroid. A big factor in the Cavaliers’ second-quarter comeback was their ability to win four of five faceoffs in the frame. Janczyk decided to make a change. He inserted freshman Wes Lincoln in the start-up circle to begin the second half. The move paid immediate dividends.
Lincoln won the third-period faceoff and Andrew Ryan put the Bullets back on top, 4-3, when he applied plenty of torque to a high, hard one that got past Cabrini netminder Erick Zarzecki. Gettysburg (4-3) scored again on a goal by Chris Cahill, who slapped home a rebound off a hard shot attempt by Lynch.
The visitors capitalized on a defensive lapse by the Bullets. When McCook wandered away from the pipes, Paul Slulski found a wide-open Matt Biegel to trim the deficit to 5-4. The Cavs tied it again at 5 with an extra-man goal when Skulski flipped to Thorp on an alley-oop.
Gettysburg went ahead, 6-5, on Sartory’s second goal with an assist by Cahill, but Cabrini responded with a Brandon Dunn-to-Brian Hill worm alert to make it 6-6.
The 15th-ranked Cavaliers entered the contest 0-5 against Gettysburg. It looked like they might prevail for the first time when Joe Hughes’ whirling windmill gave them their first lead, 7-6, with less than five minutes to play.
A southpaw sling by Lynch drew the Bullets even. The hosts went up, 8-7, when the ball popped up in the air after a scramble in front of the net and Martin Manilla finished with 1:44 to go.
It took Cabrini just six seconds to score the equalizer. Crosby notched a hat trick thanks to an assist by Mike Gurenlian, and regulation ended with the squads tied, 8-all.
Zarzecki had two of his 13 saves in the first overtime. The Bullets, who outshot the Cavs, 43-35, had four attempts in the bonus frame but came up empty.
Lincoln logged another face-off to begin the second extra session. Gettysburg worked the ball to the offensive end and called a timeout. The end came quickly when play resumed.
“We call it a short stack,” said Janczyk, explaining the stratagem. “We thought if they didn’t slide, we’d have a lane. It opened wide and he (Ward) really stuck it.”
McCook had 14 saves for the Bullets. Ward, Sartory and Lynch each scored a pair of goals for the victors. Lincoln secured eight out of 14 face-offs for the Orange & Blue, including the most important one of the day.
“Faceoffs have been our Achilles’ heel for the past two or three years,” said Janczyk. “We haven’t had anybody solid in there. Necessity is the mother of invention, so we went with Lincoln. He probably weighs a buck-fifty, but he was a real spark for us.”
The Bullets will try to start their first winning streak of the season when they host defending Centennial Conference champion Haverford at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ve been fighting for a win,” said Janczyk. “We’re not playing pretty lacrosse, but this (Cabrini) is a good team. This is a step in the right direction.”
Cabrini 0 3 2 3 0 0 - 8
Gettysburg 3 0 2 3 0 1 - 9
Goals: C-Jeff Crosby 3, Bobby Thorp 2, Brian Hill, Matt Biegel, Joe Hughes; G-J.C. Ward 2, Danno Lynch 2, Pat Sartory 2, Chris Cahill, Andrew Ryan, Martin Manilla. Assists: C-Paul Skulski 2, Brandon Dunn, Mike Gurenlian; G-Cahill, Tyler Feeley, Ward. Shots: C-35; G-43. Face-offs: C- 11-12; G- 11-22. Clears: C- 17-19; G- 20-24. Saves: C-13; G-14. Turnovers: C-17; G-17.