The lone blemish on the Brunswick School lacrosse team’s record entering Friday night’s Prep Nationals semifinals was last week’s road loss to rival Salisbury School, so the Bruins had extra motivation when their opponent in the tournament’s semifinal-round happened to be those same Crimson Knights.
Flourishing on both ends of the field throughout, Brunswick earned the satisfaction of avenging their loss against their rival in a game where the stakes were higher than the previous meeting.
Seizing the lead from the start, the Bruins advanced to the championship game of the inaugural Prep Nationals tournament with an impressive 11-7 semifinal-round win over the Crimson Knights before a big crowd at Brunswick’s Cosby Field.
Brunswick, the No. 1-seeded team in the tournament, will host Lawrenceville School from New Jersey in Sunday’s 2 p.m. Prep Nationals finals.
Brunswick (14-1) is ranked No. 2 in the nation in the Inside Lacrosse High School Top 25 Power Rankings, while Lawrenceville (15-3) is No. 4. Lawrenceville advanced to the championship matchup of the Prep Nationals by defeating Deerfield Academy (11-3), which is ranked 12th in the nation. The Bruins suffered their first loss of the season when they were edged by host Salisbury, 10-9, on May 13.
“It feels amazing to advance to the finals,” said Brunswick senior Georgetown-bound goalie Luke Schlank, who turned in a stellar performance in net. “Last week we were at their place and lost to them in a close one. You should have seen the things they were doing to us after the game. You can’t fuel us up like that. All focus is now on Sunday. This late in the season, you just have to play a full game.”
The atmosphere was electric in Friday night’s matchup under the lights at Cosby Field. The stands were packed and a large crowd also gathered along the sidelines for this much-anticipated rematch.
“The key aspects to this win were playing our own game,” said Brunswick senior attack/captain Henry Caponiti, who will play at Georgetown next season. “We were angry that we lost to them last week. They didn’t treat us very well at their home place. We just focused on ourselves and played within ourselves – we received a great turnout from the fans and we got it done.”
The first quarter ended with Brunswick holding a 5-1 lead. The Bruins went into halftime with a 7-3 advantage. Attackman Chris Gaine, who like Schlank and Caponiti graduated from Brunswick this week, scored the squad’s first goal and fifth goal. Junior attack Will Coale tallied in transition, upping the home team’s edge to 6-1 with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Junior midfielder Leo Huffman snapped a shot from close in past Salisbury’s goalie, making it 7-1 at the 5:09 mark of the second stanza. The Crimson Knights concluded the opening half with a pair of goals to close to within 7-3.
“We have always been a first quarter team, so that was awesome, we definitely needed that,” said Brunswick captain/defensive midfielder Will Donovan, who also graduated this week. “It felt really good to get this win. It’s rare to get the opportunity to play a team a short time after losing to them. To have a game of with this atmosphere after that loss was awesome.”
The second half began with Schlank making a nifty save, then Coale scoring on the ensuing possession, giving the Bruins an 8-3 lead with 8:16 to go in the third quarter. After senior Aidan Aitken scored for the Crimson Knights, Bruins junior Andrew Greenspan won the ensuing faceoff, took it down field and tallied, making it 9-3 at the 5:53 mark of the third frame. Hoffman and Gaine scored the Bruins’ final two goals.
“Salisbury played an A-plus game last week and beat us at home and we needed an A-plus game to beat them,” said Brunswick coach David Bruce, who recently earned his 200th career win with the school. There are four really good teams here in this tournament. It’s nice to have another day with the group.”
The Bruins displayed great efficiency on offense, while playing lock-down defense against the Crimson Knights.
“We possessed the ball really well, we didn’t turn the ball over too much and we capitalized on what they gave us,” Bruce said. “We were trying to rush things in past games and I think our offense did a great job. Everyone played great. Schlank played huge and overall, did a good job against a really talented group.”
Said Caponiti: “They’re a great team but there’s been a rivalry over the past few years, so it’s awesome to get a big win, especially in a tournament like this. We all brought it, we were moving the ball and playing as a unit. When we all play as one, we’re unstoppable.
Donovan, sophomore Luke Hublitz and recently graduated Charlie Johnson were among some of the Bruins’ key defenders. Johnson strained his hamstring last week against Salisbury, but got on the field Friday night.
“It’s worth it to be coming back,” Johnson said. “On a team like this you can get away with one or two kids limping around. It’s such a statement win for the school and program. To come back in and play the same team in a week in emotional circumstances and high-pressure circumstances and to come out and have, what felt like, a resounding win against a strong team – it shows the grit, it shows the character and determination of this team.”
Brunswick beat Sunday’s championship game opponent Lawrenceville School, 15-11, at Lawrenceville, during the regular season.
“It’s going to be a good battle, they’re an awesome team,” Donovan said. “One more practice in this jersey, one more time in this jersey – and we’re going to make the most of it.”
“They’re talented, they move the ball well, they have plenty of weapons and they are a disciplined team,” Bruce said. “It’s going to be a really good game.”