Alex Joyce had been in this situation before: Facing elimination against Georgetown Prep in the Interstate Athletic Conference playoffs.
While the showdown between two of the region’s lacrosse powerhouses usually takes place in the IAC championship game as opposed to the semifinals, as it did Wednesday, Joyce’s approach was no different.
So at halftime of Landon’s 6-4 victory against its bitter rival, Joyce, the Bears’ veteran goalkeeper, spoke to his coaches and made a request.
“We haven’t really done the best job of breaking out after shots when I have the ball,” Joyce said. “I told our coach at halftime that I wanted our middies to start breaking out as quickly as they could when I got the ball.”
With the game tied at 4-4 the third quarter, Joyce made a sprawling save on a ball rolling toward the crease, stood up quickly and fired an outlet pass to Jack Falk along the right sideline. Falk caught the pass in stride, sprinted toward the cage, and fired a 15-yard shot past Hoyas goalkeeper Will Railey.
“I threw a pretty lucky pass because the guy who was covering him, his back was turned,” Joyce said. “He didn’t really see it. I knew throwing to Jack Falk that he has a great shot, he’s a great player and he could run. I was hoping that would create some goals in transition.”
Joyce’s halftime request paid dividends as Georgetown Prep didn’t score after Landon took that 5-4 third-quarter lead in a back-and-forth game played in steady, driving rain throughout the second half. After losing five of their first eight games this season, the Bears (12-6) will visit Bullis in the IAC title game on Saturday. The starting time for Saturday’s contest was not available Wednesday night.
Hank Brown and Matt Potolicchio both scored twice for Landon, while the Hoyas — the three-time defending IAC champs — had two-goal contributions from Kyle Shanahan and Jack Cleary.
“You can’t feel too sorry for Georgetown Prep,” said Hoyas coach Kevin Giblin. “We’re 15-6. Most teams in the country would love to be 15-6. For us, we’re used to being 19-3. We let one slip away, but I thought we clearly had chances.”
Georgetown Prep outshot Landon, 14-9, and fired many more shots that weren’t on goal. In the fourth quarter, the Hoyas shot eight times, but none were on goal. And when Prep did manage to put the ball on net, Joyce (10 saves) was in good position to make stops.
A fair amount of sloppiness pervaded the Hoyas’ play, as they weren’t crisp with passes and turned the ball over at crucial moments. Perhaps part of that was because of the wind and rainy conditions at Landon, where the student section and the baseball team, whose game Wednesday was rained out, rushed the field following the victory. Counting an 8-4 regular-season win, it’s the first time Landon has swept Georgetown Prep since 2004.
“After the game, we were celebrating with our fans and our coach said we haven’t won anything yet,” Joyce said. “The atmosphere was just as good as any championship Prep game. It was cool. The rain was cool. The crowd was cool, but the feeling after just felt like a semifinal win.”
With the Hoyas leading 4-3 on a goal by Cleary a minute into the third quarter, Brown answered with a shot in transition after a costly Prep turnover.
“We got the ball on a great ride. We got stripped from behind and they come down and score. Then we gave them one. Those are the difference in tight games,” Giblin said.
The “one” to which Giblin referred came little more than a minute after Brown’s strike. Georgetown Prep double teamed Landon’s ball carrier and Hugh Mosko scooped up a ground ball. His pass back toward Railey, however, was errant and Potolicchio stole the ball and fired it into an empty net.
Landon maintained possession for roughly four minutes in the fourth quarter to secure the victory and a spot in the title game.
“We’re really excited,” Joyce said. “We have not forgotten about last year.”
Landon 6, Georgetown Prep 4
Georgetown Prep 1 2 1 0 — 4
Landon 1 2 3 0 — 6
Georgetown Prep (15-6): Jack Cleary (8:15, 1st), Kyle Shanahan (11:33, 2nd), Shanahan assisted by Liam Giblin (1:12, 2nd), Cleary (10:56, 3rd)
Landon (12-6): Hank Brown (2:36, 1st), Matt Potolicchio assisted by Sean O’Brien (9:55, 2nd), Charlie Schnider (2:54, 2nd), Brown (5:58, 3rd), Jack Falk (4:26, 3rd), Potolicchio (1:44, 3rd)