Twice this year, the Haverford School lacrosse team dominated the Episcopal Academy Churchmen, beating them by a combined score of 22-9.
For four quarters Wednesday night, though, it looked as if the third-seeded Churchmen would pull off an upset against the Fords in the Inter-Academic League Invitational championship game.
"Beating a team three times is so hard because they know you so well, you know them so well," Haverford junior midfielder Matt Walters said.
Instead of an upset, top-seeded Haverford slowly chipped away at the Churchmen's lead and won the game with less than a minute left in overtime, 7-6, at Cabrini College.
"We knew we could play so much better than we did, so we just had to focus on one period at a time, had to keep fighting it out, every ground ball and keep getting after it," Fords senior attack Stephen Aitken said.
"They outplayed us probably for 40 minutes," Haverford coach John Nostrant said. "But we never lost faith in each other."
Up by 4-1 after one quarter, Episcopal was energetic, controlling the ball and playing staunch defense. The Churchmen held possession for most of the first half, and when the Fords crossed into their zone, the Churchmen's goalie, sophomore Tyler Morrell, came up with some improbable saves.
Morrell, who finished with 11 saves, was the main reason the Churchmen held the lead for so long, but the explosive Fords offense scored two goals in the third and fourth quarters, outscoring Episcopal by 4-2 and tying the score, 6-6, with 1:23 left in the period.
"We played from behind a good amount this year, so we are good under pressure," Walters said.
Three minutes into the four-minute overtime, Walters blew a shot by Morrell, winning the game. The packed stands of Cabrini's Dixon Field emptied onto the field, and Walters' teammates tackled him to the ground.
"They are probably one of the top three teams in the country," Episcopal coach Andy Hayes said. "Our guys were ready to play. It just didn't go our way.
"You have guys throwing up on the sideline, cramping. Our kids played awesome tonight," he added.
This was the second year for the Inter-Ac Invitational, after the PIAA sanctioned boys' lacrosse last year and reformatted the postseason structure. The Inter-Ac doesn't compete in the PIAA, so it created the Invitational to give its schools a postseason tournament.
Walters had two goals for the Fords, as did fellow junior midfielder Brendan McGrath. For the Churchmen, Chase Growney powered the offense with two goals and two assists.
"I spent pretty much my whole life with these guys," Aitken said. "To have it end on one day and to have it be a huge win like this is a great feeling."
Haverford School 1 1 2 2 1 – 7
Episcopal Academy 4 0 2 0 0 – 6
Goals: HS-Brendan McGrath 2, Matt Walters 2, Liam O'Connor, Carl Walrath, Stephen Aitken; EA-Chase Growney 2, Andrew Gordon, Nicky Lenard, Tyler Odell, Shane Morrell.