Tampa, FL – As the Crusaders returned to Tampa for the second consecutive year the team looked to play an entirely different game than they did last year. In their previous meeting, Tampa ran away with the game early in the first half and never looked back as they defeated the Crusaders 5 – 15. This year was much different however, as the Crusaders led for the majority of the game with their largest lead of three goals coming in the second quarter. Both sides of the ball played extremely well for the Crusaders as the beat up Spartan team struggled to score in even play and had their heads spinning as the offense moved the ball like lightning around the field. Regulation play came to an end with the teams in a dead lock at 14 goals apiece. As the game headed into extra time (the Crusaders second overtime game of the season) the Crusaders mustered up all of the energy they had left but fell just short as Tampa scored one last goal to defeat the Crusaders 14 – 15.
Although the score at the end of the first quarter showed a 3 – 3 tie the Crusaders dominated the quarter. Austin Dixon (Junior) got the scoring started for the Crusaders at the 12:29 mark left in the quarter and Kyle Hunziker (Senior) followed up Dixon’s goal with one of his own taking the early 2 – 0 lead for North Greenville. The stunned Spartans struck back scoring a pair of goals of their own both in transition. Alex Proly (Senior) stopped the Spartan run with the first assisted goal of the evening for the Crusaders as he caught a pass from Brendan Sullivan (Sophomore) and hammed the goal home from 12-yards out.
Proly played like a man-on-a-mission as he scored five goals on the evening to accompany three assists. Down the stretch Proly made play-after-play that kept the Crusaders in the game. His individual effort could not be described as the Spartans tried to lock him off and he still found ways to make the players around him better. In the fourth quarter the Spartans did try to lock Proly off from getting the ball, however he ran his defender nearly to death setting multiple screens for his teammates and found ways to get the ball despite the defensive strategy.
After a Tampa goal to lead out the second quarter the Crusaders pieced together a three-goal run that put them on top by two. Chris Carpenter (Senior) got the run started as he caught a transition pass from Chris Wieckhorst (Junior) and finished the ball off a screened shot. Fletcher Steveson (Junior) followed up the Carpenter goal nearly two minutes later with a absolute rocket from the outside (one of Proly’s 3 assists). Lastly, Hunziker hit pay dirt again as he caught a tough pass on the crease and backhanded the ball into the goal for his second score of the evening. The Crusaders took a one-goal lead into halftime with the Spartans walking off the field in absolute disarray.
Entering the second half, Tampa came out hot scoring three goals in a row to put the Crusaders down by two until Wieckhorst scored his first goal of the night off in transition as Steveson drew two defenders and moved the ball up to the LSM for a 10-yard ripper. Two minutes later Carpenter got on the board again during the extra man opportunity for the Crusaders as the curled from behind the cage and caught a pass from Ethan Landreth (Senior). A late goal by the Spartans put the Crusaders in the hole as the last quarter of play rolled around.
The Crusader defense gave the Spartans all that they could handle although the high goal count. Jaren Szafranski (Senior) collected four ground balls on the evening while playing stifling on ball defense. Zeth Sutton (Junior) is truly coming into his own as he comes off injury. Sutton finished with two groundballs and two caused turnovers but the stats do not tell the story as both groundballs were hard fought in front of the cage. His singular effort to clean up the crease saved multiple goals that the Spartans may have scored. Coach Corey Struss made a great defensive change in the fourth period sending senior defenseman Sky Dupree up field to double pole the Spartan midfielders. The move paid off as the Spartan midfield was less effective throughout the quarter and Dupree collected two caused turnovers throughout the period.
In the last quarter of play, the Crusaders and Spartans fought a back-and-forth battle that mimicked a Volleyball match; with the team’s trading goals neither team would lead by more than a goal. Proly started the scoring for the Crusaders at the 13:20 remaining mark to tie the game at 10 goals apiece. Proly scored two consecutive goals a minute apart from each other to give the Crusaders their first lead of the fourth quarter. He again scored after a couple Spartan goals at the 4:22 mark to re-tie the game. Carpenter gave the Crusaders the go ahead goal with 2:16 left, but a Tampa goal at the 1:02 would send the game into overtime.
After gaining possession of the face-off the Spartans came down and scored on the first possession of the overtime period to ultimately defeat the Crusaders 14 – 15. This is the second overtime defeat for the Crusaders this season.
Individually, it was all about Alex Proly as he finished with 5 goals and 3 assists for a total of 8 points; his effort cannot be described in words as he dominated the Spartan defense. Chris Carpenter played a sensational game as the netted 3 goals. Defensively, Zeth Sutton and Jaren Szafranski picked up critical ground balls on the crease. Although it cannot be recorded, Defensive midfielders Hunter Crandall (Senior) and Taylor Lanzillo (Junior) along with LSMs Chris Wiekhorst and Collin Courtney (Freshman) played incredible on ball defense against the Spartan middies. These players competed for 60+ minutes and competed incredibly well.
The Crusaders will now travel to Boca Raton, Florida for a match-up with the ranked Knights from Lynn University. That game is set to face-off at 12 pm.