SANDY SPRING – The clock wound down and seconds remained until the final whistle that would have given both Churchill and Sherwood High School boys lacrosse teams a tie to end their regular season on May 6.
Churchill gained possession and passed it around, and with a second left, senior attacker Ryan Shure lobbed a shot through a thicket of defenders into the goal. The last-second shot beat the buzzer to hand Sherwood their second regular-season loss and lead the Bulldogs to a 7-6 win.
Shure’s game-winner was his fourth goal of the game and as she became the highest-scoring player on either team.
It was the last regular season game either team would play before the state playoffs, and meant little in terms of record. The seeding had already been decided, and both teams have a first-round bye.
But the game was seen as the last chance for each team to prove themselves and one last time to make mistakes on the field instead of errors that would prematurely end a championship run.
“We beat ourselves today as much as they beat us,” said Sherwood Head Coach Matt Schneider.
Both teams saw areas for improvement that would be exploited in the playoff matches to come. Sherwood (10-2) saw a fatal flaw in underestimating their opponent, realizing that Churchill’s record did not account for a defense that can adapt to frustrate and annoy attackers.
Churchill (8-4) relied on senior goalie Andrew Robinson heavily. While he had one of his best games in goal this season, open gaps left by the defense were fair game for a hungry Sherwood offense, according to Churchill Head Coach Jeff Fritz.
“The close games like this…it’s make one play at a time,” said Fritz. “Every single play counts in a game like this.”
The match got off to a surprising start, as Churchill posted two goals in the first quarter and held Sherwood to none. Robinson was adept at blocking shots and denied an increasingly frustrated Warriors team a first-quarter clean sheet.
“I’m taught that playing goalie is one shot at a time; you don’t focus on the last shot, you have to have a short memory,” said Robinson. “So even though I made some saves in the first quarter, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about the next shot, what I can do, how I could position myself better.”
If there was one equalizer, it was the ground itself. The muddy field forced more turnovers than both teams combined as players slipped and dropped balls unexpectedly in a shift of momentum.
The second quarter saw Sherwood break an 18-minute scoring drought when sophomore attacker Charlie Matusek scored. With two points, Matusek was the highest scorer for Sherwood. Senior attacker Michael Feeney scored the second goal for Sherwood to head into halftime down by one.
“We really couldn’t get possession time, and when we had the ball and tried to attack, they had a really good goalie making a lot of stops, and I think the offense did all that we could do,” said Matusek.
There was a shift in attitude after halftime as Sherwood became more aggressive and reckless, earning more frequent trips to the penalty box but successfully stalling a Churchill advantage. A goal by Shure had the Bulldogs leading by two, until two straight goals by Sherwood tied it up, heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was the defining moment for both teams and saw Shure take over with three goals. All of Shure’s goals in the fourth quarter were from a significant distance, as Churchill bunkered down in an attempt to hold the score as it was and wait for a turnover.
Sherwood sophomore midfielder Colin Patil beat Robinson in a one-on-one to break a tie and give Sherwood the lead after over 40 minutes of either trailing or equalizing. The joy was short-lived, however, as Shure tied the game up again at six apiece.
With three minutes left, Sherwood saw an opening in the defense but shot after shot ricocheted off of Robinson as a mob of Churchill defenders sought to keep the Warriors from scoring at all costs.
Robinson eventually gained possession, and the ball made its way to Shure upfield, where he put an end to the match at the last second, literally.
“I think we really needed this win going into the playoffs,” said Shure. “We needed a strong finish to the season so that we have momentum going into the playoffs.”