Trailing By Six Goals, Dox Aitken Leads No. 1 Haverford’s 11-9 Comeback Over Gilman

photoWhen No. 1 Haverford was scored on three times in the opening two minutes and then trailed 7-1 about fifteen minutes in, the Fords’ sideline looked deflated, shocked and frustrated. Despite that, they continued to grind against host Gilman (Md.) and gained momentum despite an 8-4 halftime deficit, riding an impressive 9-1 run over the final 26 minutes to escape the Greyhounds, 11-9.

Besides Gilman senior Ben Schmerler’s 10 first half saves, there wasn’t any one statistic or factor that put the Fords in such a deep hole, they just weren’t playing their game. The Greyhounds came out guns blazing, even with No. 15 senior Andy Matthews (UNC) sidelined due to injury, moving the ball and finding the right shots. Seven different Gilman players registered goals in the first half, with Chris Williams filling in for Matthews by scoring twice. Uncommitted sophomore Woody Kelly also came of age by tallying a pair.

Once Haverford trailed 8-2, their offense started to slowly build confidence, beginning with breakthrough UVA-bound senior middie Phil Poquie’s remarkable individual effort at the 1:15 mark. The first of his three goals, Forry Smith finished a rebound after Poquie’s initial shot with eight seconds remaining, after which Haverford took a much-needed break and then continued their run just 13 ticks into the third quarter.

After a two-goal first half, top-ranked junior Dox Aitken – ‘uncoverable when he gets going downhill’, according to Fords head coach John Nostrant – helped Haverford continue that run just 13 ticks into the third quarter and then again less than three minutes later. He’d finish with five goals, one of the better performances the Virginia recruit has ever put together.

“The first four minutes of the third quarter are crucial and we’ve done a good job of that the last few games,” said a relieved Nostrant after the game. “When we get going, we’re pretty tough to defend. One play at a time we got out on them and started to press and change the tempo of the game… They were playing at a different level than us for the first 12 or 13 minutes so we just tried to plug away.”

Poquie tied things at 8-8 midway through the third before Aitken gave the Fords their first lead of the game with 2:12 left to go in the quarter. Due to an aggressive defense and improved play from junior Penn verbal Alex DeMarco in goal (he went into half with just one save), the Greyhounds were held scoreless for nearly 25 minutes. Their three-headed monster at the face-off X won draws at key moments, allowing the offense to keep their foot on the pedal and add goals. When Woody Kelly finally gave the Hounds a goal with 7:13 remaining (then won the subsequent face-off), the game’s intensity was ratcheted up. However, Haverford’s Smith clinched his hat trick and ultimately his team’s 11-9 win with just under four minutes left.

With a game at No. 3 Landon (Md.) on Monday, Gilman head coach Brooks Matthews said that he hoped that his team would take away the positives.

“When we share the ball, move without the ball, when we’re creative…. we play a pretty fun brand of lacrosse and we were really proud of that,” Matthews said. “We didn’t quite have the legs at the end, they pressured and we wore down. If we can get all of our guys to compete the way that Ben [Schmerler] did, we’ll be in great shape.”

For Haverford, they’ll move forward against what has to be considered the nation’s most challenging and tiring schedule, a 25-game gauntlet before mid-May’s InterAc Challenge. The Fords head to Conestoga (Pa.) on Monday before Thursday’s game against IMG Academy’s national team (taking a 10-day trip) and Saturday’s showdown with No. 22 St. Anthony’s (N.Y.), a game that was added late to the schedule.

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