April 3, 2010

Church on Time: No. 11 Drexel Beats No. 8 Hofstra

by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

PHILADELPHIA – With less than a minute to go in a tied game against No. 8 Hofstra on Saturday, No. 11 Drexel did something that many will do Easter Sunday.

They went to church – Robert Church.

For the seventh time in the game, the Dragons freshman attack delivered. He provided the game-winner with 50 seconds left on a feed from Kevin Stockel in a 12-10 Drexel win at Vidas Field.

“We got a little messed up,” Church said. “We had a play going, and then we ran it a little early, so we pulled it out and ran it again. We redid it and I just happened to be open in the middle.”

The win was the Dragons’ third this season over a then-top 10 team. They also beat Notre Dame and Lafayette, the latter of which is still ranked ahead of them.

Said Ambler: “People underestimate us because we don’t have a star, or a big name.”

They’ve got one in the makings in Church. His seven goals easily eclipsed his career high of five set against St. Joseph’s in Mar. 2. He is no stranger to scoring. He was MVP of the British Columbia Junior A league with 107 points.

“I think he’s really starting to get the feel of the college game,” said Drexel head coach Brian Voelker. “He’s done a good job all year. Obviously today he played great. We’re going to count on him.”

Ryan West added an insurance goal, his second of the game, Colin Ambler scored twice in the second half and Mark Manos made eight saves, including three critical ones in the final 4:10 to help Drexel improve to 8-2 overall, 1-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Dragons were picked to finish sixth in the preseason.

“All year, we had it posted in our locker room that they picked us to finish last in the CAA,” Church said. “We said that’s not going to happen. Hopefully we can make the tournament and win the CAA.”

Hofstra, which falls to 5-3 overall, now has its back against the wall at 0-2 in the CAA, a slow start it hasn’t seen in CAA play since 2007. The Pride got three goals apiece from Jamie Lincoln and Adrian Sorichetti, but couldn’t hold onto an 11-9 lead with nine minutes to go.

“The three CAA games are everything right now,” said Hofstra head coach Seth Tierney whose three losses have all come on the road. “You have to push in the pile with those three, and you have to go 3-2 in the league and you gotta make that CAA tournament.”

Drexel entered Saturday as the third highest ranked team in the CAA behind both Hofstra and UMass, even though they had defeated then-top 10 squads Notre Dame and Lafayette. Both Hofstra and Lafayette are ranked ahead of them.

“Drexel is a top 10 team,” Tierney said. “Brian Voelker does a great job. Those kids play hard. Any time you have a good goalie and a good face-off guy, they’re going to keep you in games.”

Zak Fisher won 12 of 22 faceoffs and Nick Kusturiss was 2-for-3. Manos, who leads the CAA in goals allowed, save percentage and saves per game, did not allow a goal in the final 8:52 to the seventh ranked offense in the country. He saved a man-down chance with two minutes left. Then after Church’s goal, Hofstra’s John Antoniades won the ensuing faceoff but raced down the field to take an ill-advised shot that Manos saved.

“I defy you to find someone who’s playing better than Mark right now,” said Voelker of his 6-foot-2, 270-pound goalie who’s played bigger than that for the Dragons. “He’s stepped up and played amazing in a lot of games. When we needed some big saves, he got them in the end. Our defense is playing pretty well in front of him, but we count on him to make big saves, and he’s done that all year.”

Voelker admitted that his biggest concern coming into the game was slowing Hofstra’s attack. At 7-7 at halftime, he wasn’t feeling that good.

“I wasn’t sure we could keep up with them, but we got some stops when we needed to,” Voelker said. “For a while there, we were trying to figure out how to stop the bleeding. We did a good job of keeping up with them on our end. That was a big key.”

Neither team had more than a two-goal lead in the seesaw affair that had six ties. Church’s man-up goal, his fourth of the game, gave Drexel its biggest lead of the first half, 5-3. Goals by Dan Stein and Stephen Bentz opened a 9-7 lead for Hofstra to start the second half. Lincoln’s third goal of the game gave the Pride an 11-9 edge with 10:15 to go, but Ambler answered with his second goal of the contest to start Drexel on its game-ending four-goal run.

“This is huge,” Ambler said. “We’ve fallen short the last couple of years getting into the tournament, and we know to guarantee ourselves in, we have to win our conference.”
Stockel tied it with 5:23 left, and Church helped to finish off Hofstra.

“It reminded me of Notre Dame,” Church said of their earlier overtime win. “Five minutes left and we were down a couple, and we just kept fighting through it.”

Church’s first goal, less than one minute into the game, gave the Dragons their first lead, and his final goal provided another big win on the biggest day of his young career.

“Everything I shot was going in,” Church said. “I haven’t had a day like this in a while. It’s my first one here at Drexel.”

News & Notes
Hofstra played against Drexel without sophomore attackman Kevin Ford (6 goals, 3 assists in two games) and senior defenseman Adam Swarsen (24 ground balls through six games) due to injuries. Tierney said after the game that he doesn’t expect either back for Manhattan on Tuesday or their next CAA game against Delaware next Saturday. Tierney also hinted at the possibility of replacing freshman goalie Rob Bellairs with sophomore Andrew Gvozden… The win was Drexel’s third in the last five meetings with Hofstra after losing the first 18 in the series.


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