PHILADELPHIA – In a wild finish in front of a packed crowd, sophomore attackman Matt Tufano scored the game-winning goal just 43 seconds into overtime to lead the Saint Joseph's men's lacrosse squad to a 12-11 victory over #20 Hobart on Sweeney Field on Saturday afternoon. With the Northeast Conference win, the Hawks improve to 6-5 overall (2-1 NEC) while the Statesmen fall to 8-3 (2-1 NEC).
"We didn't give up, and our guys never would under any circumstances," said head coach Taylor Wray following the comeback of the season. "Sometimes the ball bounces your way a little bit. Hobart is a great team. They were 8-2 and a top-ranked team in the country for a reason. We had some plays go our way, but that's what happens when you sell out for one another. You create some luck of your own."
With the Hawks trailing by one, 11-10, heading into the final minute of regulation, Hobart was hit with two penalties totaling 1:30 of EMO time for the Crimson and Gray.
14 seconds out of an SJU timeout, the Hawks turned the ball over (0:31) and Hobart regained possession for what appeared to be the final possession of the game. However, after the Statesmen cleared with 10 ticks remaining, sophomore midfielder Evan Campbell forced the visitors to turn the ball over out of bounds with six seconds to go.
Campbell found sophomore midfielder Austin Strazzulla upfield with 4.1 seconds to play, and Strazzulla hit wide-open sophomore attackman Nate Patterson, who buried the equalizer into the top-left corner with six-tenths of a second remaining in regulation.
The Hawks earned possession off the overtime face-off on freshman face-off specialist Zach Cole's 17th win of the day, and Patterson found an open Tufano right in front of the net for the sophomore's first game-winning goal of his career.
"This is the best feeling of my life," said Tufano following the win. "My teammates were there for me and I'm there for them, and it's just like a big family. When we scored that goal with less than a second left, I knew we had the game. It's just a great feeling overall. It's Alumni and Family Day, and to do it in front of everyone here is an amazing feeling. We did it for everyone. We're all a family."
"I'm so happy for Matt," added Wray. "He has worked quietly and waited for his opportunity. He wasn't starting for us earlier in the year, but he worked and worked and worked and, when he got his opportunity, has made the most of it. He is such a great example of what it means to be a good teammate, and I'm so excited for him."
Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Adler made a career-high 20 saves, including nine in the second quarter alone and four in the fourth.
"My defense really bailed me out a lot of the time," said a smiling Adler after his 16th career victory. "I haven't been playing that well this season, but the defense trusts me and the coaching staff trusts me. It was good to get a good one under our belts."
Cole was outstanding at the X, going 17-for-26 with 11 ground balls on the day.
"Zach had a terrific day, and that face-off win in overtime was huge," added Wray of his rookie. "The kid he was going up against (Matthew Pedicine) is top-five in the country, and Zach's pretty darn good himself. I was really impressed with him."
Patterson finished the day with a game-high four points (2g, 2a) while Tufano (2g, 1a), junior captain Liam Hare (2g, 1a) - who was moved to the LSM for the game - and freshman attackman Ryan Doran (1g, 2a) chipped in three points apiece. In his return to the field, sophomore attackman Shane Fable turned in a hat trick.
The first half saw neither team jump ahead by more than two goals as SJU took a 6-5 edge into the halftime break, and both squads put away three goals apiece in the third quarter as the Hawks took a 9-8 edge into the final 15:00.
However, Hobart scored three straight (14:11, 9:27, 8:19) to take over an 11-9 lead midway through the fourth.
Fable completed his hat trick, on a feed from Strazzulla, at the 6:53 mark to close the Hawks' deficit to one, 11-10, before the Campbell-to-Strazzulla-to-Patterson late-game heroics forced overtime.
Defensively, junior close defenseman Tyler Makar went for five ground balls and three caused turnovers and senior close defenseman Thomas Tarleton added three ground balls and a caused turnover while, in his first collegiate start, rookie Brandon Meyreles added three ground balls on the back line.
The atmosphere was electric for the Hawks' second conference win of the spring.
"It was a great day to have our alums out here in the capacity that they were, cheering and just creating a great environment," closed Wray to the sound of "T-Wray" chants from the fantastic alumni showing. "It's what makes St. Joe's lacrosse such a special thing and makes Sweeney Field such a special place to play on game day. I'm just so proud of my team and the guys who have battled all year. We've had our fair share of bumps along the way but they just keep battling and today was a battle right through the finish."
Saint Joseph's hits the road to face Sacred Heart in NEC action next Saturday, April 13. Opening face-off is set for 1:00 p.m. in Fairfield, Conn.