Playoff plague continues for Panther lacrosse

Titan+defender+checks+a+Panther+Player.+The+Titans+physical+defense+wore+down+the+high+powered+Starr%E2%80%99s+Mill+offense.+Despite+averaging+17+goals+per+game%2C+Blessed+Trinity+held+the+Panthers+to+a+season-low+six+goals.+

Shelby Foster

Titan defender checks a Panther Player. The Titans physical defense wore down the high powered Starr’s Mill offense. Despite averaging 17 goals per game, Blessed Trinity held the Panthers to a season-low six goals.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

Over the past four years, Starr’s Mill lacrosse has played at a high level. The seniors on the roster will leave the Mill with a career record of 74-15. But the one bump in the road that continuously sends the Panthers off course is the state playoffs.

We prepped all we could, and we practiced as hard as we could…They just come out and outplayed us.”

— senior Ryan Cockes

Despite winning back-to-back area championships for the first time in school history, Starr’s Mill has struggled in the postseason. Over the past three years, they haven’t advanced past the second round, and that trend continued this year with Blessed Trinity eliminating the Panthers 11-6.

“We needed to be a little more aggressive,” head coach Jeff Schmidlkofer said. “In a playoff game, you have to be able to pick up a ground ball. When you can’t pick up a ground ball, bad things happen.”

Seniors Ryan Cockes and Ethan Sack each scored twice for the Mill, but the group as a whole underperformed. The team on average scores 17 goals per game, but the physical Titan defense held them to just six.

Blessed Trinity played a very physical game and wore down the opposition. All-American goalie senior Bric Nicholl denied the Panthers of easy goals and shut down the high powered Starr’s Mill offense.

“We prepped all we could, and we practiced as hard as we could,” Cockes said. “They just come out and outplayed us.”

Just two minutes into the game, Cockes fired a shot past Nicholl to put the Panthers up 1-0 early. The Titans responded with physical defense to disrupt the Mill. Despite gaining early momentum, Starr’s Mill quickly fell behind. Blessed Trinity dominated the rest of the quarter, scoring three goals throughout the period.

The Panthers trailed 3-1 going into the second quarter, and their deficit only grew. The Titans scored the first goal of the period, but Sack quickly responded for the Panthers. The teams battled back-and-forth for the rest of the quarter, but Blessed Trinity extended their lead to 6-2 before halftime.

Shelby Foster
Panther defender surveys the field after the Panthers forced a stop on defense. The Panther defense allowed an average of three goals per game, but the speed and physicality of Blessed Trinity was too much for Starr’s Mill.

“When you dig yourself into a hole like that, you almost have to play perfect the rest of the game,” Schmidlkofer said.

Despite the Starr’s Mill trend of owning the the third quarter, The Titans completely dominated the period. Throughout the 12 minutes, their offense torched the Panther defense and Blessed Trinity watched their lead inflate to 11-2. Junior Titan Thomas Higgins scored twice in the quarter, and the Panthers only managed one goal, courtesy of freshman Gabe Russeroochi.

Russeroochi’s goal sparked the Panther offense, as they began to cut into their deficit. To open the quarter, Sack and Cockes both fired shots into the net, and junior Reid Harrison was able to slip the ball past Nicholl. The lead was trimmed to 11-6 with 9:29 still remaining in the game. However, Blessed Trinity recovered every loose ball, and began to chew time off of the clock. Neither team had another chance to score, and the Panthers’ season came to a close at the hands of the Titans.

“It’s emotional, leaving [my teammates], it’s tough,” Sack said. “Looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys.”

Despite winning back-to-back area titles and defeating McIntosh for the third year in a row, the postseason continues to plague Panther lacrosse. The loss to Blessed Trinity was the Panthers’ only home loss of the year for a team that ended the season with an 18-4 record overall, including a flawless 10-0 region record.

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