Yorktown goalie Derek Koelsch was admittedly nervous prior to Saturday's matchup against Chaminade.
And for good reason.
The Flyers — ranked No. 16 in the nation by Inside Lacrosse — have a talented squad from top to bottom, highlighted by dangerous offensive stars Will Himler and Matt Kavanagh.
But when the whistle blew, Koelsch's nerves turned to steel.
The Trinity-bound senior was spectacular in the cage, racking up 15 saves to lift the Huskers (5-3) to an 11-9 upset win over Chaminade (6-3) in the first game of the “Lead the Way Lacrosse Day of Heroes” trippleheader at St. Anthony's High School.
“I was kind of in the zone,” Koelsch said. “I was seeing shots well and my defense had my back. The shots weren't coming from in too close.”
Teammate Kevin Interlicchio said he had been waiting for Koelsch to have a signature performance.
“Derek played ridiculous,” Interlicchio said. “I have seen him play a couple of games like this, but I think he can do it every game. He was in the zone and feeling it.”
Interlicchio had it going, too. He tortured the Flyers for a third consecutive year, notching three goals and one assist. In the last three meetings between the two teams — all of which Yorktown has won — Interlicchio has scored a combined nine goals.
“I just like the big games,” Interlicchio said. “I like to step up and lead my team. And I think I did a good job of that today.”
As a team, the Huskers stepped up big time. After getting thumped by Garden City last Saturday, few believed they stood a chance against the mighty Flyers. Early on, Yorktown did little to prove their detractors wrong. Chaminade came out of the gate on fire, jumping out to a 2-0 lead just five minutes into the first quarter.
At that point, the Huskers looked like the same pushovers from the previous Saturday. And then something happened — they pushed back. Sparked by an unassisted goal by Interlicchio with 5:39 left in the first quarter, Yorktown went on a 7-1 run to grab a 7-3 lead at the break.
But it wasn't all about Interlicchio. Nick Mariano (2G, 1A), Remy Lieberman (1G 1A), Frankie Fusco (1G), Eric McLee (1G, 1A) and Joey Porcelli (1G) all got in on the act and contributed to the offensive surge.
Yorktown's defensive unit — headed by Koelsch and senior Brendan Burke — held the Flyers scoreless for a span of roughly 16 minutes after letting the two early goals slip by.
For a young team that had struggled with mental lapses in the form of bad penalties and careless turnovers, it was like night and day. The Huskers crisply moved the ball on offense, stung the net with precise shots and masterfully defended with equal parts technique and nastiness.
“When we play hard, we are a very tough team to beat,” Interlicchio said. “We came out focused. We have been working hard in practice, making everything sharp. In the beginning of the season, we were throwing a lot of passes away with stupid mental mistakes. Now, everyone is focused and it showed in today's game.”
The play of Yorktown defensive short-stick middies Alex Poritzky and Alex Terry — which didn't show up in the box score — was also impressive. The speedy duo ran the equivalent of a marathon, busting it back into the hole on defense to keep an athletic Chaminade squad from kick-starting its transition game.
In the second half, the Huskers picked up from where they left off, outscoring Chaminade 2-1 in the third quarter on goals by Conor Gately and Interlicchio to extend the lead to 9-4 heading into the final quarter. Lieberman netted a man-up goal 24 seconds into the fourth on a vicious crank, making it 10-4. Chaminade's Sean Mahon responded at the 10:50 mark to trim the deficit to 10-5, but Yorktown's Ty Schuldt fired back roughly three minutes and 30 seconds later, boosting the lead back up to six goals.
And then the wheels started to fall off. With a sense of urgency in the air, Chaminade scored four consecutive goals inside the final three minutes and 51 seconds of regulation, slicing Yorktown's lead to 11-9. But it was the proverbial “too little, too late,” as the Huskers staved off the last gasp comeback attempt.
Miraculously, Chaminade — which won 17-of-22 faceoffs — was unable to take advantage of its dominance at the draw.
“We did a good job making our possessions count,” Koelsch said. “They had a lot of possessions, but when we were on offense we did a good job of cashing in and scoring when we needed to.”
Despite having an up and down start to the season, Yorktown somehow rallied to pull off what has to be one of the year's biggest upsets to date.
Koelsch, however, wasn't the least bit surprised with the result.
“Maybe through the rest of the county people are doubting us, but I think we've known the whole time that we had the potential to play well,” he said. “But we have to play 100 percent every game.”