Archbishop Stepinac midfielder Spencer O’Toole left Staten Island Tuesday night with a disappointing feeling in his gut. The Crusaders had a lot to think about after losing a crucial game to Monsignor Farrell that clinched the top seed for the hosts in the upcoming CHSAA Class A city lacrosse playoffs.
Stepinac needed to rebound from that defeat and snap a three-game losing streak that was also bugging it. Consider Saturday morning’s 15-0 rout of Cardinal Spellman Saturday morning in The Bronx the perfect tonic.
“It really helped and it helps going to play Iona,” O’Toole said. “It builds the confidence and it gives us what we need to get the win.”
O’Toole and Nick Shaw led the attack with four goals each as the Crusaders finished their league campaign at 6-1. Stepinac (7-9 overall) gains the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and will take on Cardinal Hayes in the quarterfinals next Saturday. The Crusaders finish the season with a non-league contest Tuesday against Iona Prep.
O’Toole said the team worked hard to correct their problems after the Farrell game. Stepinac was down 9-4 in the final period before attempting a late rally that just came up short in that contest.
“We had a couple of kids who really worked hard that game,” O’Toole said. “From that loss, it hurt a lot. We should have won that game. We’re going to try to get them next time. We were a little too cocky and when we got in there everyone a little too slow on our feet. We were dragging around.”
It didn’t take long for Shaw to get the Crusaders on the scoreboard against Spellman, finding the back of the net just two minutes into the game. Shaw received the ball from midfielder Andrew Murray and ripped a shot past Spellman goalie Tyler Smith.
With Spellman a bit sloppy on the offensive end, Shaw sped downfield to double his tally and O’ Toole scored with two minutes remaining in the first quarter to make it 3-0. The Crusaders shut down any potential Spellman attacks and their offense poured it on with eight goals in the second quarter to take a commanding 11-0 halftime lead.
Stepinac, which has suffered injuries to key midfielders Danny Sullivan and Andrew Molino, has persevered in the last few weeks despite the losing streak that included losses to Fordham Prep and Riverdale.
It’s been a good campaign overall for first-year coach James Goldman as he watched a team rebuild their confidence after struggling last season with a 0-19 record in the AA division. Stepinac is a big and athletic club that has improved to the point where Goldman gives his team a good shot at winning a championship.
“It’s great to get momentum,” Goldman said. “Going into the postseason, you want to get some wins. We want to get the ball hitting the back of the net a little bit and get some the confidence back up for the kids."
Midfielder/defender Caleb Gilligan-Evans, who earned a football scholarship to Holy Cross, says one of the keys to success is staying together and not pointing fingers. One of the strengths has been a good defense and goalie, Bobby DiNapoli, who Evans credit as a big reason Stepinac has remained in close games.
“A game like this is good to work on the small things,” Evans said about the lopsided win at Spellman. “Getting our play rights and working on the small things, that can make or break us getting a championship.”
Spellman (5-9 overall) is the No. 6 seed and travels to defending city champions Mount St. Michael on Friday afternoon. Pilots coach Kyle O’Donnell said the loss to Stepinac was tough, but the third-year program will continue to develop on the varsity and junior varsity levels.
“Growing pains are going to make us a lot better,” O’Donnell said.